Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Buzz from BusinessWeek

BusinessWeek's article spotlighting the problems with industry-funded CME has generated a fair amount of reponse, mostly from Medical Education Communication Companies or their surrogates. Here's a round up.

Policy and Medicine begins with a personal attack on me:

"Political fallout from the Pfizer decision not to fund medical communication companies (MECC's) in July, includes a Business Week article titled:
Teaching Doctors—or Selling to Them? This is basically a rehash of the Pfizer MECC decision along with some free PR for Danny Carat, MD, the gadfly anti MECC blogger (who by the way has no conflicts of interest except that his CME newsletter business will increase if he gets his way and ends commercial support of CME – oh, yeah, he forgot to mention that in the article – such a slip). In the interview for the article Carlat is quoted of the Pfizer decision: “It sends out a message that there’s a level of distrust about the way they (the marketing firms) operate.”"

See the attack? He misspells my name! But beyond that, he accuses me of trying to hide the fact that I publish a CME newsletter and that I make money from it. Actually, I told the reporter about the newsletter, and she and her editor chose not to include the information in the article. So blame BusinessWeek, not me, and feel free to send a letter to the editor to that effect; I'm quite certain they would publish it.

To those who believe that I try to hide my involvement in the CME business, I suggest you shift your gaze slightly to the right of this paragraph, where you'll see that I disclose this conflict of interest, in bold, on the front page of my blog. You'll find no such disclosure on the home page of Policy and Medicine, however. As it turns out, the writer of that blog is none other than Thomas Sullivan, who is the founder and CEO of Rockpointe, a very successful pharmaceutically-funded MECC that produces dozens of industry-supported symposia, primarily in the field of cardiovascular disease. Their website makes the following pitch to drug companies: "We deliver message-driven medical education programs targeting the confluence of medical science and clinical need." Hmmm. "Message-driven medical education." That sounds almost like a marketing line to me. But no, it can't be, because Rockpointe is a CME company, not a marketing company, right?

It is possible to discover Mr. Sullivan's conflicts from his blog, but you'll have to scroll to the bottom of the page and click "about". If he is so concerned about conflicts of interest, why doesn't he reveal his own conflicts on his home page, like I do?

Ditto for a number of people who posted negative comments about the BusinessWeek article. A certain "J Stotler" has (thus far) posted no fewer than five comments about how "deceiptful" the article is. Who is he? He is apparently Jonathan J. Stotler, MAOM, senior director, Institute for Advanced Health Education, Union, N. J. Mr. Stotler was recently quoted in this Medical Meetings Magazine article.

Then there is Lew Pinsker, who accuses Weintraub of neglecting "due journalistic diligence in researching her subject." Mr. Pinsker fails to disclose that he is the Vice President of Editorial and Creative Services for Medical Communications Media, an industry-funded MECC that sells drug companies a product called "The Primary Care CME Synergy Plan" which "provides a consistent educational message by using a single faculty and set of learning objectives...." Gee, "consistent educational message." Marketing? No, must be CME.

But wait--there's more!

B. Martin criticizes Weintraub's "inability to differentiate between outright pharma marketing and the current status of industry-funded CME." She does not disclose that she is Barbara Martin, who, on her Pathophilia website, identifies herself as a "formerly practicing board-certified neurologist" who is now a full time writer in the "intriguing world of pharmaceutical marketing and pharma-supported continuing medical education (CME)." I guess that means her job is dependent on industry support of CME.

We all have our conflicts of interest, and our conflicts inevitably inform our opinions. However, to those who base their arguments on attacking my conflicts, please make sure to disclose your own.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for complementing our company and glad to know you read my stories, perhaps in the future you will come to a better understanding of my presepective.

I fixed your name, sorry about that a type-o, something I am given to.

On the disclosure, I just changed the page view in the software I use this week and that is where it put my bio and about sections, not sure how to fix it, there no subliminal message here.

I never thought that message driven communications sounded like marketing (guess because I never worked in marketing, it didn’t cross my mind).

Our goal is to deliver great education to health care professionals, which contributes to better patient care.

Rather than the two of us going at it, which is what this is becoming, I invite you to come down and meet my staff of dedicated physicians and health professionals, and see first hand their commitment to improving healthcare.

Perhaps in the future, we should discuss our postings via telephone or email to ensure accuracy or our articles.

Sounds like your vacation in Jackson Hole, went well. I saved that one for some time in the future.

Thomas Sullivan, President, not CEO of Rockpointe.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, man. Get a grip. I provided a link to my blog in the BW comment. And although I have worked in industry-supported CME (which is how I have knowledge of the business), I am not currently dependent on it.

B. Martin, MD (aka Barbara Martin, MD, aka blogger at

Anonymous said...

Dr Carlat:

good for you in this posting. As was on our recert exam, denial, projection, and distraction are the cornerstones for the narcissist and antisocial. Maybe a harsh comment as applied to the situation you report, but greed and profit motives do not attract many fair and reasonable persons.

Rebuttal is important as those who cry foul want you to say nothing to hopefully vailidate their "alleged" points. I totally agree with your reporting of these matters. It may not change the behaviors, but keeps the issues out front for review by others.

soulful sepulcher said...

"I stand to benefit financially if drug companies were not allowed to fund my competitors."

That says it all.Reason to ban drug reps, ban pharma ads and DTC, etc. that way the consumer wins and so do you. That honesty coming from a psychiatrist is worth it's weight in gold!

Anonymous said...

Interesting timing. I just received this note from a woman with ADHD who is also an advocate in the UK.

I had mentioned that in the U.S. pharma funding for ADHD research, education, etc. just gives ammunition to the anti-medication, anti-science zealots. She points out that things could be worse: No pharma funding. The consumer wins? Not by a long shot.
Hi Gina
you all are lucky as when something like that comes out you all band together.............. we have no such luck over here....the ADHD community gets no support at all from pharma companies.. they will not help groups for fear that it will look like they are paying us to promote medication to families.... so we suffer and our children suffer..... we get no
funding from anywhere... we have to hold projects to raise money.. how many projects can you do in year and still be sane... lol

i wanted to get ty pennington over here as i thought that would be a good way to have a conference for adults etc, as he is well know here
through the Extreme Home Makeover show............. i could not track him down at all... without it costing me money to join this and that to
get thru to his management so i left it..

because you all band together that allows you all for flourish more, we have no famous people who will stand up and say they have
ADHD...... so it is hard...............

keep fighting and thanks again

red said...

thank you sohbet

Anonymous said...

see if you can finagle your way into listening to should be interesting...good luck!

As a valued Pri-Med education partner, we’d like to meet with you to discuss Pri-Med’s ongoing commitment to educating today’s health care practitioners and improving patient care through CME. We are all operating in a rapidly changing and highly regulated CME landscape. As such, Pri-Med believes it is important now more than ever to embrace transparency and collaboration as we work ‘together’ with each of you (MECCS) to deliver high quality education to 150,000+ health care practitioners each year.

During this hour, we plan to cover the following topics:

The Value of CME: Proprietary Research on Physician Learning Trends

The Need for CME Advocacy: Standing Up for Ongoing Industry Support

Working Together: Collaboration, Innovations and Efficiencies in CME

Product Toolkit for 2009

Open Dialogue re Industry Trends

Question and Answer Session

Date: Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Time: 1:00pm to 2:30pm EDT

Host: Anne Goodrich, Vice President of Educational Products

Marissa Seligman, SVP, Pri-Med Institute, Chief, Clinical & Regulatory Affairs