Design, setting and participants: 906 patients attending three general practices in metropolitan Sydney during October –November 2007 completed an 18-item anonymous survey exploring their perceptions of doctors’ competing interests.
Results: Most patients (76%) were unaware of any relationship their doctor may have with pharmaceutical companies. Patients wanted to know if their doctor obtained any benefits in cash or kind from the pharmaceutical industry (71%), financial incentives for research participation (69%) or sponsorship to attend conferences (61%). Most agreed that disclosure of competing interests by doctors is important (84%), believing this disclosure would help patients make better informed treatment decisions (78%). Eighty per cent of patients stated that they would have more confidence in their doctor’s decisions if interests were fully disclosed, with strong support for verbal disclosure during the consultation (78%).
Conclusions: Patients are currently not aware of their doctors’ competing interests but do want to know of doctors’ interactions with the pharmaceutical industry, indicating that disclosure of competing interests would improve their confidence in doctors’ decisions.
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