Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hospitality and Pharma: Relationship on the Rocks?

Decades of mutually beneficial economic ties have bound the fortunes of hotels, restaurants, and drug companies. But in an era of Sunshine Act disclosure, renewed calls for professional ethics, and ballooning healthcare costs, that relationship may be souring.

It used to be a veritable love-fest. As recently as 2011, I was writing about a restaurant's attempt to rebrand itself as a "pharmaceutical dinner facility."  In 2010, I debated a restaurant chain owner who was calling for the Massachusetts legislature to repeal the state's 2009 gift ban so drug companies could once again wine and dine doctors at his restaurants. His lobbying turned out to be successful. The state's previously strict law was revised in 2012. Now it allows industry representatives to purchase meals of a "modest value" outside the office or hospital as long as they provide educational information about their products between courses.

However, it turns out that while hospitality industry owners are working double time to book reservations for doctors and pharmaceutical reps, their employees have an entirely different idea. They--correctly--see drug company relationships with doctors as a driving force in their rising health care costs, and they want pharmaceutical companies to stop funding educational CME programs at their hotels.

Last week I wrote about this brave stance from the hospitality worker's union Unite Here ("Hotel Workers Against Industry-Funded CME?"). The Wall Street Journal​'s Pharmalot blog got in touch with me to discuss the matter further and yesterday they posted a follow up that includes more of my thoughts on the matter and more of ACCME's self-serving response.

Looking back over the recent history of these industry dynamics, it's easy to see more workers taking this stand against business as usual. After all, they go to work every day in the middle of a money storm while simultaneously seeing their health costs rise year after year. That's a pretty good reason for them to want to stand up.

You can help them out by signing the No More Drug Money petition they are promoting and by sharing it around.

1 comment:

Michael S. Altus, PhD, ELS said...

Imagine if a physician who is grateful to a pharmaceutical company representative offers educational materials such as books, pens, notepads, coffee cups, and meals. According to the stated ethical positions of pharmaceutical companies, the reps could not accept. For example, The Blue Book--Summary of Pfizer Policies on Business Conduct ( states on page 30, “Gifts, Entertainment and Other Items of Value. You and your immediate family may not give or accept gifts, services, perks, entertainment, discounts, loans or other items of more than modest value by local standards, to or from those who are doing business or seeking business with the Company. Items of modest value are permitted only if they are not given or received on a regular or frequent basis, and if they are not solicited by Pfizer colleagues.”

The unblinking hypocrisy is galling.