Friday, September 24, 2010

When Drug Makers Pay for Reporters to Attend Conferences...

As I 'fessed up in a previous post, I made the mistake of leaving the country for a week, meaning I have spent the past week digging out and not having any time to post about a number of issues that have arisen. So back to work.

See Alison Fairbrother's nicely comprehensive article--
--on the practice of pharmaceutical companies sponsoring educational conferences for journalists and underwriting their attendance.

You'll quickly see the same arguments trotted out as we have been used to reading in the medicine/CME debate. On the one hand we hear that the companies give the money but do not dictate the content, and that with serious cutbacks in media budgets reporters could otherwise not get funding to attend these valuable and informative conferences. On the other side we encounter worries about integrity and conflict of interest and a fear that this is the entering edge of the wedge.

I see only one major difference between this controversy around journalism ethics and medical CME. We know what is happening around the country as investigative reporting seems to be going the way of the dodo and as bankrupt major newspapers rush to lay off staff. The claim that the profession of journalism could not, in house, afford these sorts of teaching venues without the influx of outside money, rings a bit truer than the claim that physicians are somehow too poverty-striken to manage to arrange their own CME without industry largesse. But that observation does not make the ethical concerns go away.

1 comment:

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

I suspect that practice you describe exists in nearly all industries. Contributing resources to an event is not tantamount to corruption. If we strive to eradicate all 'appearances' of conflicts of interests, then will we lose more than we might gain? As far as the well heeled physicians you refer to, Howard, without Pharm subsidizing conferences, the costs will rise and attendance will decline. Does this serve the public. (Personally, I no longer travel for my own medical education.) I agree with you that ethical behavior should be paramount, but I am concerned that the 'treatment may be worse than the disease' sometimes.