Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Wry Commentary on Medical Organizations' Corporate Links

I received an e-mail from Dr. Matthew R. Anderson, of the Department of Family and Social Medicine at Montefiore in New York, and editor of the journal Social Medicine. He wanted to call my attention to some recent articles in his journal that readers of this blog might find of interest.

First, the journal published a set of 3 papers commenting on the long history of medical society journals accepting cigarette ads:

As a cute illustration of this issue, the journal's website contains a 1947 ad that features, shilling for Camels, none other than the father of cellular pathology himself, Rudolf Virchow:

If all this seems a bit far afield for us, Dr. Anderson's own editorial brings it back home. He addresses three more recent examples of corporate engagement by medical organizations, that he compares to the old practice of rationalizing taking tobacco company money by printing their journal ads. The examples are, first, the American Academy of Pediatrics and its links to manufacturers of baby formula; second, the American Academy of Family Physicians and its recent tie to Coca-Cola; and third, the AMA's role in selling its physician database to permit drug companies to keep detailed profiles of physician prescribing:

Some pertinent comments from Dr. Anderson's editorial: "We presume that these actions do not reflect the values of [the three medical organizations'] membership. It is legitimate to ask, therefore, if we have really progressed from the time when cigarettes were advertised in medical journals under the slogan 'more doctors smoke Camels.' ...Pulling our lens back, we see that these associations have become the captives of corporations which serve their profession. Rather than working for their patients or their members, they are promoting the ends of corporations."

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