J Korean Med Assoc.  2010 Aug;53(8):644-646. 10.5124/jkma.2010.53.8.644.

Ethical Issues in Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry Interactions

  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. khmeng@catholic.ac.kr


On April 28, the National Assembly passed 3 bills revising the Medical Act, Pharmaceutical Affairs Act, and Medical Instruments Act which are related to the so-called 'dual punishment system' at its 9th plenary session of the 289th provisional meeting. According to the government timetable, beginning November of this year (2010), doctors will be subject to imprisonment for up to two years or face fines of up to 30 million won when found to have taken financial or non-financial benefits from drug companies. Their license could also be suspended for one year. Interactions between industry and physicians are vital to public health. However, they must be principled partnerships effectively managed to sustain public trust in both partners' commitment to patient welfare and the improvement of health care. Mounting scientific evidence indicates that gifts, favors, and other marketing activities, both explicit and implicit, prejudice independent judgment in unconscious ways. Physicians who receive free gifts from the pharmaceutical industry must consider the ethical dilemmas posed by this practice. These dilemmas are conflict of interest, impairment of objectivity, and the impact of these free gifts on the cost of health care. In order to minimize the likelihood of biased decisions by physicians, pharmaceutical companies should comply with their code of ethics for fair competition, while medical societies should establish an influence-free culture for physicians and optimize the benefits inherent in the principled relationships between medical society and industry.


Dual punishment system; Principled partnership; Conflicts of interest; Impairment of objectivity; Increase of healthcare costs

MeSH Terms

Bias (Epidemiology)
Codes of Ethics
Conflict of Interest
Delivery of Health Care
Drug Industry
Gift Giving
Public Health
Societies, Medical
Unconscious (Psychology)
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