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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 14670

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.

 

Publication type: news

McQuaig L.
Accepting drug company perks is conflict of interest, MDs told
The Globe and Mail 1989 Jan 31


Full text:

The regulatory body for Ontario’s doctors says those who are accepting perks from drug companies may be guilty of professional misconduct.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said in a statement yesterday that receiving special benefits, such as computers, “is not acceptable as it represents a conflict of interest for the physician.”

Judy Erola, president of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada, which represents brand-name drug companies, said yesterday the association has no immediate plans to advise members to stop offering benefits.

She said the association is conducting its own investigation of the practice through an industry-sponsored committee, and hopes that the college will participate.
The association has advised member companies to consider their own programs and seek guidance from the committee if they have any concerns about what they are doing, Ms Erola said.

College registrar Micheal Dixon said the college has recently been contacted by an increasing number of doctors who have been invited by pharmaceutical companies to participate in drug-surveillance studies.
Under the terms of such arrangements, doctors have received the use of computers in return for prescribing a particular dug to a group of their patients, the college said.
Dr Dixon said physicians who accept such benefits “have a clear conflict of interest and may be guilty of professional misconduct.”
In an interview, he said that ultimately it may be necessary for the college to take action against doctors if the practice should continue.
Physicians participating in such post-marketing surveillance studies may receive a fee proportional to the services rendered for their participation, but they may not receive additional benefits, he said.
The whole issue of the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies requires further evaluation, Dr Dixon said. He said that the college pans to conduct a comprehensive review of the issue over the next few months.

The Globe and Mail reported last month that Squibb Canada Inc. was providing computers to doctors who prescribed one of their drugs, Capoten, to a certain number of patients. Squibb vice-president Dan Burns did not return the phone calls from the Globe and Mail yesterday.

Lise Goad, a public relations consultant retained by Squibb, said late yesterday that company officials have not seen the college’s statement and cannot comment on whether they will continue their program.

 

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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963