Maybe it's a laid-back attitude inspired by the sun and sand of South Florida as opposed to an uptight skepticism picked up in Philadelphia, but fourth-year medical students in the two regions had opposite reactions to basic drug marketing.
When handed clipboards and Post-It notes touting Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering Lipitor, University of Miami med students responded positively toward the drug, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
After the same subtle exposure, however, Penn students became more wary of Lipitor.
The results weren't due to an Ivy League bias, said study lead author and Penn doctor David Grande.
The environment is important, he said. Grande and his coauthors, including a University of Miami business professor, speculated that Penn's restrictions on marketing seem to have primed students there to react negatively to even a small marketing message.
Miami - like most of the nation's other medical schools - doesn't restrict drug-company marketing on its campus.
While the focus of the public and medical-ethics watchdogs has been on gifts to doctors, such as free dinners or junkets to Hawaii, it turns out even a little marketing carries weight for drug makers, at least for the unsuspecting.
"Brief and simple exposures do influence medical students," Grande said. "There is no reason to believe that practicing physicians would be any different."
So, do you remember the name of the drug on the knickknacks in your doctor's office? Is it in your medicine cabinet now? - Josh Goldstein