Pharma in the hot seat again

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A re-run of Dr. Marcia Angell s March appearance on "60 Minutes" last night reminds me of a recent article in BusinessWeek that also quoted Dr. Angell and the accusations she makes against pharma in her book, The Truth about Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. She claims that drugmakers have become "the main sponsors of clinical testing and physician education and are also a critical source of funding for the Food & Drug Administration."

While the "60 Minutes" episode focused on importing drugs from Canada, in the BusinessWeek article, she says:

    "Drug companies finance most of the continuing medical education of doctors, as well as meetings of professional societies. They lavish all manner of gifts on doctors in practice, including dinners in luxurious restaurants and trips (ostensibly for educational purposes) to exotic resorts. And they provide speakers and meals for interns and residents in teaching hospitals.

    "The profession should acknowledge that this is all a form of marketing, which adds to the prices of prescription drugs. Doctors should take responsibility for their own education and buy their own meals."

Whether you re a CME provider or in industry, be prepared to defend your practices better yet, get proactive and tell the media about all the safeguards you have in place to ensure the separation of promotion from education on both sides of the fence. Regardless of the PhRMA Code, the OIG Guidance, the latest revision of the Standards for Commercial Support, Stark II, and whatever new regulations come down the pike, this issue is not going to go away--and the best defense is a good offense.

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