Monday, February 2, 2009

When Medical Societies Become Lobbyists for Big Pharma

Working backwards on this one, I first had it from Roy Poses' "Health Care Renewal" blog that referred me to a blog by Alison Bass:

http://alison-bass.blogspot.com/2009/01/connect-dots-between-medical-groups-and.html

Which in turn quoted the Boston Globe:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/01/24/new_drug_firm_limits_prompt_fears_of_falloff_in_medical_meetings_in_city?mode=PF

Here's the quick scoop--Massachusetts recently, as part of its efforts to cut health care costs to accommodate its new health reform law mandating insurance coverage for most residents, passed a strict law limiting financial relationships between drug companies and medical activities. Though the final rules have not yet been put in place, three medical professional societies have announced plans to switch their major CME meetings out of Boston, claiming that the new law will unduly restrict presentations given by drug company scientists. The organizations are the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the American Society for Gene Therapy, and the Heart Rhythm Society.

Defenders of the new law say that there will actually be no such restrictions on which scientists can speak at meeting and that the move amounts to fear-mongering on the part of the societies. Bass goes beyond the Globe article by pointing out who bankrolls the three societies, and notes that major bioetech and pharma interests that were opposed to the new law are heavy funders.

So now we have the spectacle, not only of supposedly "professional" medical societies taking lots of dough from industry regardless of the conflicts of interest that this poses, but of the societies then proceeding to carry the lobbying water for those companies, making the industry's cause their own. A pretty sorry statement for "professional" advocacy and ethics.

3 comments:

world health medicine said...

hii.. medicine pharma in this blog...

hope you keep posting, i will arrive here always

link exchange?

Anonymous said...

Conflicts of interest in medical societies are not restricted to ties to big pharma.

Your failure to ensure an impartial panel to review the IDSA lyme treatment guidelines puts you right into that same group. How could an ethicist not see that loyalty to and affiliation with the IDSA and previous known opinions on lyme treatment were not conflicts of interest? Instead you kicked out anyone with experience in treatment of the disease. How backward is this?

Your universe of conflicts of interest is pretty small, it seems.

This will cause great harm to people now and in the future who have lyme. I can’t see that having an “ethicist” involved was any help at all. An honest and intelligent person off the street could have done a better job. Your involvement will give a veneer of respectability to a rotten structure.

For ten years I have had to travel all over for lyme treatment, losing one doctor after another to the persecution of anyone who believes lyme can be a chronic infection. Since when was the idea of chronic infections made to be a quack notion? There is plenty of evidence.

The doctor I am currently seeing was turned in to the state medical board for treating longterm chronic cases, by an IDSA doctor. The state board collected some of his files and did nothing with them for more than a year. In the week when the IDSA panelists names were made public, the board proceeded with the case. Apparently they knew from the panel composition that no changes would be made in the guidelines and they could proceed with the task of putting all such doctors in the state out of business and the patients left to suffer morbidity and mortality.

I think you should retire from the ethics business.

I personally feel like giving up. Treatment has kept me going and functional. But I can’t cope with a medical establishment so corrupt and jaded that even the most elementary level of fairness and compassion is out of reach.

Howard Brody said...

The previous comment by "Anonymous" might seem puzzling and unrelated to the content of this blog. I elected to leave it up, despite my efforts to clean up the blog and delete comments that are not on subject. I did so in this case because the person is entitled to his/her opinion and I did not want to appear to be censoring it.

I was asked by the office of the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut to assist the Infectious Diseases Society of America in their effort to review their current guidelines on Lyme Disease. My role relates to helping to determine conflicts of interest among members of the review panel. The criteria for choosing panelists are all in the public domain and I believe you can access everything via the IDSA website.

I was asked by the Attorney General's Office not to reply to any questions or comments aimed directly at me and my role, but to refer all such comments to their office and/or to IDSA. Therefore I am not at liberty to respond to the substance of this posted comment.

Howard Brody