Thursday, December 3, 2009

Canadian Medical Association Gets Dumb (and $780,000)

The Canadian Medical Association is getting plenty of flak about their $780,000 CME deal with Pfizer, and anyone with half a brain can see why. Pfizer is not in the business of altruism. When they spend lots of money, they do so in order to make their shareholders happy.

For example, when the company cut a
$12.3 million CME deal with a collaborative including the University of Wisconsin and the California Academy of Family Physicians, they did so in order to encourage doctors to talk to their patients about smoking cessation. Presumably, this increased sales of Pfizer's anti-smoking drug Chantix. While this CME program, called CS2 Day (Cease Smoking Today), does not have the blatant infomercial feel of most commercial CME, it treats Chantix with kid gloves. As covered in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, an online course for doctors fails to mention a small piece of the Chantix puzzle--the fact that its side effect profile includes serious psychiatric symptoms. Heck, they didn't mention any of their product's side effects in the presentation. You call that accredited CME?

So now the officials at the Canadian Medical Association are chugging the same kool-aid as UW's director of CME, George Mejicano, who had defended the Pfizer-funded courses with a pile of nonsense: "He said such courses are rarely comprehensive and are designed to meet selected learning objectives.” Now listen to his Canadian colleague:

“There's no connection between the funder and the people who are actually providing the content,” Dr. Sam Shortt, CMA's director of knowledge transfer, said. “We're confident that these two elements meet and exceed any expectations from any observer.”

In my experience with colleagues from Quebec and Ontario at American Psychiatric Association meetings, Canadians are generally far from naive--so why did Dr. Shortt and the CMA turn off their neurons? Hmmm. Let me count the reasons--all 780,000 (U.S.) of them.

1 comment:

Carolyn Thomas said...

Oh, and it gets worse by the minute up here in Canada...

Pfizer is not only granting the CMA $780k out of the goodness of their hearts, but a senior exec at Pfizer Canada has just been appointed to the governing council of the 'Canadian Institutes for Health Research', which has a $1-billion annual budget funding the work of thousands of medical researchers across Canada.

As you may know, the publicly funded CIHR awards grants to researchers working in health and medicine. Until now, its governing council consists mainly of scientists, medical practitioners and health administrators drawn from Canadian universities.

And now, drawn from Big Pharma too.

One of the most vocal critics to Dr. Prigent’s appointment is health researcher and former CIHR council member Dr. Steven Lewis, who claims that the pharmaceutical industry has engaged in “countless systematic transgressions” against scientific integrity and honest marketing over the last decade.

A national petition against the appointment of the Pfizer Canada exec has been started, and Dr. Lewis has written a scathing attack demanding the repeal of this appointment. More at