It's long been my opinion that the cornerstone of Big Pharma's far-reaching influence is the fact that pharmaceutical companies have so many health care professionals in their pocket... or, more accurately, their wallet. This is really the dirty little secret of the medical community, and it's led to many improprieties and conflicts of interest over the years, especially recently.
But now a group of eminent physicians seems as though they're prepared to help stem the flow of unduly influential Big Pharma money. They're demanding that medical associations should decline offers of pharmaceutical industry funding. And it's about time.
The proposal was co-authored by no less than the president of the American College of Cardiology Dr. Steve Nissen, who says, "It has not always been flattering
to see how physicians relationships to industry appear to have colored their judgment in matters of public health."
The proposal is indeed sweeping, and if its tenets were to become common practice among individual docs and large medical associations, it would mark a sea change in the relationship between Big Pharma and health care professionals.
Nissen isn't alone in his views. The proposal was written by a group of 11 doctors, including the current and former presidents of respected medical associations like the American College of Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association.
It's an ambitious proposal. By voluntarily hopping off the Big Pharma gravy train, docs would need to sacrifice some of the perks they've become accustomed to. It would mean that medical groups would have to decline the pharmaceutical sponsorships that pay for big-ticket items like continuing education classes for members, or gatherings (read:
vacation boondoggles) where the groups meet to decide on treatment guidelines.
That's only the beginning: the proposal recommends a total ban on ALL pharmaceutical industry funding. Recently I've told you about some individual doctors or medical associations that have already declined to partake of some Big Pharma handouts... but Nissen wants them all to stop.
The proposal goes deeper than freebies. It would also clear away more hidden conflicts of interest. For example, the proposal would not allow treatment guidelines recommending a particular pharmaceutical product to be written by a doctor that has stock in that product's company.
Why would a doctor even need to be told that in the first place? Does it really take more than the most rudimentary common sense to know that it just plain looks bad for a doctor with a vested financial interest in the success of a certain drug to be recommending the use of that drug
in treatment guidelines that will be used all over the country? As a doctor, I'm ashamed that my colleagues actually NEED to be told this in a proposal.
Naturally, Big Pharma denies that Nissen's proposal is even necessary. Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, claims there's no proof of any bias in treatment guidelines stemming from pharmaceutical funding. Of course Johnson and his cohorts "believe they should contribute" in order to help doctors stay current on the latest pharmaceutical advances.
Along with other doctors, I'm skeptical that the proposal will gain much traction. The simple fact is that big medical groups have truly become addicted to the money, and they depend on that money for a great deal of their various activities. Nissen and the other authors should be praised for writing this bold proposal. But I'm afraid it will likely amount to nothing more than an
unfulfilled wish list of the way things ought to be.
William Campbell Douglass II, M.D
Love, Gabby. :0)
"I know of nobody who is purely Autistic or purely neurotypical. Even God had some Autistic moments, which is why the planets all spin." ~ Jerry Newport