In the same issue of the Boston Review as Marcia Angell's great article (profiled in my last post) you can read a fantastic article about commercially-funded CME called "Selling Diseases," written by the irrepressible Adriane Fugh-Berman of Georgetown Medical School.
For those who understand the inherently corrupt process of industry-funded CME, the article covers familiar ground, but is nonetheless great reading. For those who are not aware of how self-deluding many of our top physicians have become, the article is an eye-opener and a call to action.
My favorite quote is:
"Industry-paid speakers frequently deny espousing marketing messages. I’ve heard many physicians justify their pharma-funded speaking gigs by saying, “I never emphasize their product” or, triumphantly, “I don’t even mention their drug!” But these comments only highlight their sales skills. Pharma doesn’t hire doctors to sell drugs; that’s a drug rep’s job. Pharma hires physicians to sell diseases."
I have always been amazed at my colleagues' capacity for rationalizing behavior when it suits their pocketbooks, and Dr. Fugh-Berman nails the issue here perfectly.
By the way, Dr. Fugh-Berman's non-profit organization, PharmedOut, has organized a CME conference called "Prescription for Conflict: Should Industry Fund Continuing Medical Education? It wil be held on June 25 of this year in Washington DC, and includes a start-studded line-up of speakers, including Deputy FDA Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, the author and bioethicist Carl Elliott, senior investigator for Senator Grassley Paul Thacker, the director of Pfizer's CME programs Maureen Doyle-Scharff, among others. (There are also a few almost famous wannabees on the program, like me!) Here is a link to the agenda and the speakers, along with registration information. I hope to see you there!