First Posted at Common Sense Family Doctor on 6/12/2013
The usual defense of such medical-industry relationships goes as follows: the drug manufacturer provided an “unrestricted” educational grant and had no influence over the content, other than that it had to be about a certain topic (in this case, management of obesity). So why not accept this funding with no strings attached to produce unbiased clinical content for one’s member physicians? In fact, why shouldn’t a medical specialty society such as the AAFP seek funding from multiple competing drug companies to reduce the chance that its educational offerings will be biased one way or another? Dr. Jerome Hoffmanstrongly disagrees in his guest post below.
What if a law firm gave an unrestricted grant to a judge, to write an educational review of the firm’s pending case before him? No worries, especially if the judge denies any conflicts.
I say that all those unrestricted grants corporations give to politicians (who certainly never fail to put the public interest first) don’t ever buy influence, but merely “access.” When Enron gives millions to candidates on all sides, they’re giving away their money merely as a generous public service … just as the scientific monographs that they sponsor — all written by non-conflicted authors (or ghostwriters) — are simply attempts to educate us. Heaven forbid we prejudge them.
Excuse me, but Pharma doesn’t throw away its money. There is no such thing as an unrestricted grant; if it didn’t buy value in return, why would they pay for it? And if the author didn’t write something they like to read, do you think he’d ever get another unrestricted grant?
Finally, I don’t believe it’s actually about favoring one company over another; it’s about favoring them all. They may compete over certain individual drugs, but they all thrive when “Key Opinion Leaders” (and our “independent” societies, and journals, and universities) help doctors, and the public, buy into the myth about wonder drugs (for sexual performance, for weight loss, etc.) … at a cost of many many billions to all of us. That’s why their extremely active lobbying trade group (PhRMA) represents all of them together.