Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Physican Educators Should Avoid PhRMA Contacts

(Note: this post is slightly modified from my post at www.npalliance.net/blog.)

Evidence has suggested that physicians are influenced by contacts with PhRMA--via drug reps, conferences, advertising purported to be educational, etc.  As I've previously noted, I think this is a strong reason why physicians should avoid industry contact/influence.

Recently, ProPublica launched their Dollars for Docs reporting series.  This series of stories (and a searchable database) intends to bring light to the relationship between PhRMA and physicians.  It's a very revealing (and fairly unpleasant) overview of how tight these connections are and how much influence industry wields on and through physicians.

A recent article describes how poorly medical schools perform in keeping medical school faculty from joining industry speakers bureaus.  High-ranking faculty at medical schools participate in these activities and give industry-sponsored talks, even though school policies officially forbid that.  In many cases, the physicians' excuses were lacking.  A major failing appears to be that medical schools' policies rely upon voluntary reporting and the honor system.  Considering that some speakers can make over $100,000 yearly through their speaking activities, it is clear that voluntary reporting is insufficient and significant penalties may be required if faculty violates their school's policies.

Considering that companies are seeking to exert more control over what speakers say, it is increasingly evident that PhRMA and other industry-sponsored talks are NOT educational endeavors--no matter how much participants might believe and no matter how much industry insists that they are.

Physicians who speak on behalf of industry are both targets of companies' advertising efforts and a key part of those companies' advertising campaigns.  Continuing this activity is questionable at best.  For our physician educators, who influence other physicians and who teach and mentor future physicians, this is unacceptable.