Why Not Have Corporate Sponsors?
Phillip W. Long, M.D.
July 2, 1998
Most medical schools prohibit medical students from receiving expensive gifts (e.g., stethoscopes, meals, trips to conventions, etc.) from pharmaceutical companies. Why? Because medical schools have found that these “free gifts” carry too great a price.
The pharmaceutical companies use these “free gifts” to seduce medical students and psychiatrists into attending their corporate sponsored seminars. The lecturers at these seminars always present the pharmaceutical company's product in the most favorable light. The lecturers are, of course, paid handsomely by the pharmaceutical company with “unrestricted educational grants.”
Lecturers know that their corporate sponsor will never pay them to speak again if they suggest that the sponsor's product is ineffective or inferior. Thus, in the past 25 years, I have never once heard a lecturer seriously criticize the sponsor's product.
In this way, pharmaceutical companies distort medical education. It is all very subtle. The lecturer, usually an academic celebrity, endorses the sponsor's product, exaggerates its benefits, and downplays its shortcomings. Sales for the product immediately increase. Usually, months or years later, other psychiatrists slowly conclude that the product was grossly “over-sold,” and that it had serious shortcomings that the lecturer omitted to mention.
Allow me to get straight to the point. I strongly believe that the pharmaceutical industry shouldn't sponsor medical education. Period.
The pharmaceutical industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Whenever big money teams up with celebrity lecturers, medical education suffers. The pharmaceutical industry currently funds the majority of psychiatric research done in universities. University lecturers compete with each other for the largest corporate sponsors. As a result, the pharmaceutical industry now dictates what research and continuing education is offered to psychiatrists.
Pharmaceutical companies have the right to develop new drugs to sell for profit. Likewise, they have the right to pay speakers to promote their products. What I object to is the deceit of the pharmaceutical companies trying to pass off their "infomercials" as legitimate, unbiased, medical education.
To prevent any conflict-of-interest, I believe that physicians should:
Not accept any promotional gifts from pharmaceutical companies
Not participate in any pharmaceutical industry sponsored entertainment activities
Not accept any free medication samples from pharmaceutical companies
Not produce any clinical guidelines that are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies
Not accept any funds for educational activities in our medical schools, even if they are given at arms-length
You will have to arrive at your own decision as to the ethics of this. I have made my decision - our website has no corporate sponsors.
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