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Proposed ban could end Big Pharma freebies

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Unread 05.16.08, 09:41 AM
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Proposed ban could end Big Pharma freebies

Proposed ban could end Big Pharma freebies

Dear Friend,

I've written you ad nauseam about the disturbing trend of money and favors that are spread about by Big Pharma, and the undue influence that those wield within the healthcare community. In no uncertain terms, big parts of this system stink. But now, it seems that there may finally be someone who's willing to stand up and do something about it.

The influential Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has proposed that drug and medical device companies be banned from giving free gifts, free travel, free ghost-writing services even free food to doctors, staff members, and students at all of America's 129 medical colleges.

Well, FINALLY!!!

It's no surprise to me (or you) that drug companies routinely spend billions to influence doctors. In fact, Big Pharma spends more on these "freebies" for docs than they do on consumer advertising or even believe it or not research. That's why there have literally been decades of Big Pharma-sponsored food, gifts, and consulting gigs for med school professors, and even ghost-written research papers that those professors then put their names on.

Rob Restuccia, executive director of the non-profit Prescription Project, said the ban could represent a sea change in medical education. The Prescription Project is a group dedicated to eliminating conflicts of interest in medicine so this is high praise. Restuccia points out that most colleges' conflict-of-interest policies are either weak or nonexistent.

Dr. David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University said, "We're hoping the example set by academic medical colleges will be contagious." What I'm hoping is that if this trend catches on in the schools within in AAMC, this idea could catch fire throughout the healthcare community. And I'm not the only one that feels that way.

The AAMC conducted a two-year study on medical conflicts of interest within the schools. The report found that the Big Pharma freebies "tend to establish reciprocal relationships that can inject bias, distort decision-making, and create the perception among colleagues, students, trainees, and the public that practitioners are being 'bought' or 'bribed' by industry."

What makes this ban so important is the unspoken fact that it's well beyond a "perception" that medical professionals are being heavily influenced (I'll stop short of saying that they've been bought and paid for) by the all the things that Big Pharma money can buy.

Perhaps I've sold my colleagues short because this ban has teeth. In addition to banning food, gifts, and travel, the ban would also "strongly discourage participation [of the schools] by their faculty in industry-sponsored speakers' bureaus" where doctors are PAID to promote the benefits of certain drug and medical devices.

I must admit that as skeptical and jaded as I tend to be, I'm extremely encouraged that there are still doctors out there who care enough and believe in the nobility of our profession to cut themselves off the gravy train. You wouldn't find this sort of act in many other industries, and I'm proud of these doctors. As I mention earlier this may well represent a HUGE change in the way medicine is practiced here in this country.

Never for sale to Big Pharma,

William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.


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