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The Pitfalls of Deducing Ethics From Behavioral Economics: Why the Association of American Medical Colleges Is Wrong About Pharmaceutical Detailing

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The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is urging academic medical centers to ban pharmaceutical detailing. This policy followed from a consideration of behavioral and neuroeconomics research. I argue that this research did not warrant the conclusions drawn from it. Pharmaceutical detailing carries risks of cognitive error for physicians, as do other forms of information exchange. Physicians may overcome such risks; those determined to do so may ethically engage in pharmaceutical detailing. Whether or not they should do so is a prudential judgment about which reasonable people may disagree. The AAMC's ethical condemnation of detailing is unwarranted and will subvert efforts to maintain a realm of physician discretion in clinical work that is increasingly threatened in our present practice environment.
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Keywords: academic medicine; behavioral economics; medical ethics; medical professionalism; pharmaceutical detailing; pharmaceutical industry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Alabama School of Medicine,

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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