Jul 1, 2010

Slate Questions Gift Bans, Really?

Things get stranger by the day .... add this to the list of highly unlikely events: Slate Magazine, "frequent contributor" to NPR, as noted by NPR, published a story questioning the restrictions being place on how physicians and industry (e.g., sales, marketing, development, research, CEO's, maintenance, etc.) can interact. A timely piece for certain since MA will begin debating whether to lift a gift ban that was imposed just a year ago, citing economic damages and no discernible benefits.  

Here's a piece of the article ... be sure to stay tuned for more randomness from the world of COI:

Appetite for InstructionWhy Big Pharma should buy your doctor lunch sometimes.

Drug companies have been treating doctors to lunch. Should they? Click image to expand.The war against industry-sponsored medical education is in full tilt. In recent anti-pharma news, industry employees have been barredfrom giving talks during at least two important upcoming medical meetings, and oncologists from Vermont, Minnesota, and Massachusetts were forbidden from partaking in the snacksprovided at corporate exhibit booths during a recent annual cancer society meeting. These developments come on the heels of a movement already well under way at medical centers around the country: ending the free lunch.

But with the mounting concern about ties between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry, commercially supported medical education is being axed from hospitals and university medical centers around the country. Not only is this change unfortunate for anyone with a doctor, but it also doesn't make any sense.Every year, the pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars on educational programs for doctors, many of them involving food and drinks. Doctors who are experts on a new medication are paid handsomely by the drug's maker to speak to other doctors—over a fancy dinner or a casual lunch—about updates on treating a particular disease that (no surprise here) the new drug just so happens to treat. This approach isn't the only way that doctors continue their post-med-school education, but it is a mainstay, and not just because of the free and tasty grub. These sessions help move the latest medical advances out of the lab and into daily practice.