Dear Editor: The long-term value of admiring T.S. Eliot as a poet and Henry James as a novelist should never be underestimated. The delicious sense of irony such intellectual affectation bequeaths makes reading an article such as “Is Pharma Pulling the Strings?” [by Executive Editor Sue Pelletier, September/October] a delight. The content of this article presents information that is the best-kept secret since Watergate.

An entire township of spotted owls could be housed in the trees that have been used to print the solicitations I receive to sponsor speakers, meetings, luncheons, etc. Thanks to e-mail, I am sure the supply of electrons is also threatened.

Of the minimum number of these requests to which I respond, my sense of amazement is never diminished by the fact that the price of such involvement has been set to such a level that only a big pharma company can provide the resources.

Anyone with a sense of propriety finds the concept of hiring professional speakers to shill for products to be abhorrent. In an era of formularies, restricted access to prescribers, bids, and group contracts, why is there any surprise that a tactic such as manipulation of speakers bureaus is being employed? Even the most cursory reading of [military strategist Carl von] Clausewitz or watching an evening of Lifetime TV reveals this reaction.

As someone who has had to create a professional speakers bureau and continues to be a participant in several of them, I would like to point to one small but cogent point that was eliminated in this article: Never underestimate the intelligence of the audience. Keeping in mind that the medical community has been trained to view all problems through the cold eye of the scientific method, they are done a great disservice by those who think they lack the insight to notice duplicity in even its most subtle of forms.
JT Smith
Vice President of Development and Sales
Home Access Health Corp.
Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Dear Editor: The article “Is Pharma Pulling the Strings?” was excellent. You really nailed it, and obviously did some great research. I could identify with much of it. I teach a course on Writing for CME, and almost every “lecture” (it is an online course) I give is split into “Here's-how-it-works-in-an-ideal-world” section and a “Here's-how-it-really-works” section. I am always looking for auxiliary readings for my students, and plan to use your excellent article in class (I actually have had them read many articles from Medical Meetings in the past). Thanks again for voicing many of the frustrations we've had to face in the industry!
Kelleen Flaherty
Adjunct Faculty
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia