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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 18767

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: Electronic Source

Schwitzer G
Industry influence is 'an infection' - international criticism of Pfizer-funded journalism workshops
Health News Review Blog 2010 Oct 13
http://www.healthnewsreview.org/blog/2010/10/industry-influence-is-an-infection---international-criticism-of-pfizer-funded-journalism-workshops.html


Notes:

Please visit website for video interviews


Full text:

Next week, the National Press Foundation offers an “all-expenses-paid, educational program on cancer issues” for journalists, with all expenses paid by Pfizer.

I’ve written several times about my criticism of this approach.

The National Press Foundation has offered to let me speak at next week’s event or at a subsequent all-expenses-paid program for journalists on Alzheimer’s disease also underwritten by Pfizer.

I’m unable to attend either event because of prior commitments, but suggested to NPF that they ask Merrill Goozner to speak instead. He’s right in Washington, has written and lectured about conflicts of interest in health care, and was available. Goozner told me he has not been contacted. So, since I can’t attend and since critical voices probably won’t be represented at the first workshop, I have posted some video clips of what others might have said if given the opportunity.

Last week, at an international “Selling Sickness” conference in Amsterdam, I talked with several international observers who brought new critical perspectives to the discussion.

Australian journalist Ray Moynihan, who has written books and given many talks about industry influence on medicine, says this practice is “like an infectious disease and maybe we need some sort of treatment.” He says that a foundation that accepts drug company funding for journalism workshops – and journalists who accept such support – are “supporting the marketing strategies” of the drug company funding the effort.

Dr. Peter Mansfield, who heads Healthy Skepticism, Inc., describes medical industry-influenced bias as “an infection that people may not be aware of.” (My interview with him did not focus on this journalism training issue, but his comments were nonetheless relevant to the discussion.)

Dr. Joel Lexchin is a professor in the School of Health Policy and Management at York University and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. He has been a consultant for the province of Ontario, various arms of the Canadian federal government, the World Health Organization, the government of New Zealand and the Australian National Prescribing Service. Lexchin says the defensive reaction of the National Press Foundation – and of journalists who accept the all-expenses-paid “fellowships” – is predictable and is very similar to what industry-influenced doctors often say.

ADDENDUM ADDED OCTOBER 14, 2010:

Paul Raeburn, on the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, wrote about his criticism of the Pfizer-NPF deal yesterday in reaction to my blog post.

Then today he added a followup, after perusing the NPF website listing of donors. Excerpts:

“When the National Press Foundation says in its annual report that it is funded, in part, by “concerned corporations,” it’s right on the money. You can bet that Pfizer, Merck, and the others are concerned about what appears in the press! … The National Press Foundation apparently feels strongly that the press should be totally independent of government of any kind-but not of corporations.”

 

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As an advertising man, I can assure you that advertising which does not work does not continue to run. If experience did not show beyond doubt that the great majority of doctors are splendidly responsive to current [prescription drug] advertising, new techniques would be devised in short order. And if, indeed, candor, accuracy, scientific completeness, and a permanent ban on cartoons came to be essential for the successful promotion of [prescription] drugs, advertising would have no choice but to comply.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963