SOCIAL SCIENTISTS describe the "norm of reciprocity," or the obligation to help those who have helped you, as one of the fundamental principles that guides human interactions. It is not surprising, therefore, that pharmaceutical companies rely on this principle of human nature by giving gifts to physicians in hopes that they will prescribe their firms' products in return.
In the context of medicine, however, many feel that the act of accepting a gift has far-reaching ethical consequences that put the "gift" at too great a price.
The recent Senate hearings that investigated the use of gifts and other extravagant marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry were conducted primarily out of concern that these expensive promotional schemes were raising the prices of drugs while offering no benefit to consumers.
The concern has been repeated often in the medical literature. John Nelson, MD, immediate past president of the Utah Medical Association and