I think my favorite moment at this year's Annual Conference of the National Task Force on CME Provider/Industry Collaboration was when Gardiner Harris, a scientific reporter for The New York Times, said, “But can't the commercial supporter view a presentation and pull funding if they don't approve?” The audience practically roared “No!” back at him.
Yep, sometimes even the mighty Times gets it wrong, as was embarrassingly clear during the Jayson Blair fiasco a while back. Almost as embarrassing as the public outing of Serono's rewarding physicians for prescribing its meds with a trip to a meeting in Cannes, to name just one recent pharma/CME scandal. But when I hear people say that all mainstream media is biased and rife with conflict of interest, it ticks me off as much as it does when they try to tar all pharma/CME providers as complicit in some big drug marketing conspiracy.
There's a big difference between an honest mistake, like that made by Harris — who, to his credit, acknowledged that he still had much to learn about the CME/pharma connection — and the mistakes of Blair, who deliberately plagiarized and falsified information in his published articles. It's the same difference as the one between a CME provider who has to watch, aghast, asveer off the approved material and into the commercial zone and a CME provider who willingly, with a wink and a nod, lets pharma control the content of an activity. Intent counts in both fields.
I believe the CME community has a lot more in common with the press than it does differences. We all try our best to provide fair, balanced, and unbiased information. We all have strict codes of ethics, and we do our best to abide by them. Yes, there are some systemic problems in both our industries, and yes, there are some who deliberately do harm. But mostly, we're all good, ethical people trying to do the best job we can with any given situation.
Our intentions are generally good, and we take pride in what we accomplish — as we should. I heard a lot about CME to be proud of at the Task Force meeting, and I heard many, many stories worth telling. It just seems a shame that very few outside of those who readand this industry's academic journals will ever know that all this good work exists.
Without your input, the mainstream media is stuck with what it learns through government actions and legal settlements, which are all public record.
I urge you not to look at the press as the enemy, but as another partner that can help get the word out on the real story about CME provider/pharmaceutical industry collaboration.
— Sue Pelletier,