Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Adriane Fugh-Berman's Article and Upcoming Conference

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!

1 comment:

Joseph Arpaia, MD said...

Every now and then I see posts from people who seem to think that this blog and many of the regular people who post to it are against pharmaceutical companies or medications in general. That is not the case. What we are disturbed by its the relationship between the overwhelming drive of the pharmaceutical companies to generate short-term profits, spending money on what is essentially marketing, rather than researching new classes of medications which will really help people.

In the psychiatric field most of the new medications are simply copycat drugs. Lexapro, Invega, and Pristiq are not advances in psychopharmacology. They are advances in marketing and those do not help people with mental illness. Drugs like Viagra, Cialis, and whatever is being cooked up to deal with "hypoactive sexual desire disorder" are not meeting the real health-care needs of humanity. By getting prominent physicians to speak on behalf of such drugs the pharmaceutical companies are able to avoid their responsibility for doing real research.

I would love to see the money spent on marketing, which is actually more than is already spent on research, on things like medications affecting corticotropin releasing factor receptors, or subtypes of the beta-endorphin receptors, or calcium channel blockers that reduce adrenaline release from the adrenal gland ... , i.e. drug development driven by basic research in neuroendocrinology rather than by "What can we pimp next?" These would offer truly different modes of treatment.