According to the New York Times, The American Society of Hypertension is under fire for a $700,000 grant it recieved from three pharma companies.
- The same three companies -- Merck, Novartis and Sankyo -- also gave the money that the medical society used to formulate the main talking point of those briefings, an expanded concept of high blood pressure that many doctors say would increase the number of people taking drugs.
The article goes on about the "monetization of medicine" and assumes there was some breach of ethics involved. But the society received those grants as unrestricted, from my reading of the article, and there's no indication that they didn't follow all the rules in developing the curriculum. Though there was this bit:
- Dr. Alderman, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, is one of several doctors who withdrew from a group formed by the society to write the new blood pressure definition.
He complained that the definition was derived from a hodgepodge of opinions not supported by hard science, and also questioned whether the society of 1,600 could insulate itself from the drug company donations it used to operate.
That's the crux of the matter, to me anyway. Was the definition was based on evidence, and if so, what level of evidence? And how was it presented to the docs who attended these meetings? Was it fair and balanced? Commercial support of CME (it doesn't say whether these meetings were certified or not) is nothing new or shocking. Ditto the question about whether commercial support inherently biases the content. That's why we have so many safeguards in place. If they weren't in this instance, then shame on them; if not, what's the problem? Either way, it'd be nice if the article factored that into its coverage.