IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Empirical uncertainty and moral contest: A qualitative analysis of the relationship between medical specialists and the pharmaceutical industry in Australia


  • Doran, E.
  • Kerridge, I.
  • McNeill, P.
  • Henry, David


Alliances between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry have become increasingly widespread in recent years. While there are clearly benefits for doctors and their patients derived from the medical profession working with industry, concern has arisen that the commercial imperative of industry may conflict with physicians' independence and professional integrity. This paper reports the findings of an in-depth interview study with 50 Australian medical specialists undertaken to explore how and why they interact with the pharmaceutical industry and to gain insight into specialists' moral evaluation of the relationship and its consequences. Analysis of the qualitative data led to the categorizing medical specialists into three types--Confident Engagers, Ambivalent Engagers and Avoiders--based on their descriptions and evaluations of their relationship. The majority of interviewees believed that some relationship with the pharmaceutical industry was inevitable, that there were both risks and benefits associated with the relationship and that as individuals they were competent in minimizing the risks and maximizing the benefits. However, their views diverged on the extent and magnitude of the risks and benefits. The data suggested that there is considerable variance in specialists' judgments of what constituted appropriate industry largesse. Specialists' relationship with the pharmaceutical industry has inherent tensions that are managed by different doctors in different ways. Moral evaluation of the relationship and its consequences varies and the ethical concerns surrounding the relationship appeared as an area of contest. The findings suggest that in developing normative guidelines for academic and professional practice, policy makers should recognise and account for the complexity of the relationship and for the variation in medical specialists' views and feelings.

Suggested Citation

  • Doran, E. & Kerridge, I. & McNeill, P. & Henry, David, 2006. "Empirical uncertainty and moral contest: A qualitative analysis of the relationship between medical specialists and the pharmaceutical industry in Australia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(6), pages 1510-1519, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:6:p:1510-1519

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Amoakohene, Margaret Ivy, 2004. "Violence against women in Ghana: a look at women's perceptions and review of policy and social responses," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(11), pages 2373-2385, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Davis, Courtney & Abraham, John, 2011. "The socio-political roots of pharmaceutical uncertainty in the evaluation of 'innovative' diabetes drugs in the European Union and the US," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(9), pages 1574-1581, May.
    2. Read, John, 2008. "Schizophrenia, drug companies and the internet," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 99-109, January.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:6:p:1510-1519. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.