Oddly enough, the day after I posted an article about the scandal involving Partners, Harvard, Jack Connors, and Pri-Med, I received the postcard below inviting me to attend Pri-Med's Boston event in November. As you can see, the affiliation between Harvard and Pri-Med is prominently displayed. However, what is not mentioned is that most of the conference consists of industry-supported symposia. In fact, not a single drug company name is printed on the brochure, although in small print on the back of the card is the following statement, buried in the middle of the program's overall description: "Learn in a smaller setting and earn additional AMA PRA Category I Credit on the Pre-Conference Symposia Day and at the Industry-Supported Symposia. Separate registration and ticket are required."
It makes it sound like the industry symposia are a small part of the conference. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to this study of the Pri-Med courses published in the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, the conference consists of 27.5 hours of non-sponsored lectures by Harvard faculty, versus 43.5 total hours of industry supported lectures, which also give the attendees free meals. Furthermore, according to the study, the industry-funded courses focused almost exclusively on a small subset of medical topics for which the sponsoring companies market a new product. Durng the 2000-2001 academic year (soon after Jack Connors bought the company), the 103 industry symposia covered 30 different topics (primarily related to diabetes and arthritis), while the Harvard courses covered 133 topics.
The industry symposia ignored rather important topics such as: preventive screening, pediatrics, cancer, child abuse, problem drinking, skin problems, and technology resources for clinicians. Sorry, but there's just no money in these topics.
Pri-med Brochure p 1
Pri-Med Brochure p2