Tuesday, October 9, 2012

“Expert” Doctors Who Shill for Big Pharma Get Greedier

In several posts on my Family Dysfunction and Mental Health Blog (8/7/12, 6/19/12, 3/6/12, 2/21/12,  1/31/12, 10/19/11, 8/31/11), I describe in detail the propaganda and truth-twisting techniques used by the “expert” doctors who shill for Big Pharma (referred to by Pharma as key opinion leaders). They use these techniques in order to sell high-priced, brand-name drugs when cheaper drugs would be just as effective, and, in many cases, psychotherapy would be even more effective. 

In a sense, many of the shills (though certainly not all - some really don’t realize how much they themselves have been influenced) are willing to sell out the well-being of psychiatric patients for money. So the fact that their greed is now being used against Big Pharma in Australia, and most likely everywhere else as well, should not come as much of a surprise.  When it’s done to Pharma instead of for them, the drug companies then squeal like little piggies.

Irony, thy name is Pharma.

Thanks to Ken Harvey, a colleague in Healthy Skepticism, for a heads up on the following story:

Megan Reynolds ( a journalist for the Australian website 6minutes, (a daily pdf newsletter sent to Australian GPs and other healthcare professionals) reported the following on October 2, 2012:

“Demanding doctors with ‘unreasonable’ expectations are driving up the costs of medical educational events, a Pharma industry insider says.

In a submission to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) the next update to the Medicines Australia's Code of Conduct, an anonymous 'player in the pharmaceutical industry  ‘supports full disclosure of sponsorship payments as he says under the current system of self-regulation, ‘Key Opinion Leader’ doctors are coercing Pharma companies into contravening the Code.

The 'insider' says some doctors demand $1-2k or more for a brief talk based on company-provided slides, in addition to business class airfares of up to $15,000.

Key Opinion Leaders also enjoy holidays as extensions of their conferences, and sometimes never turn up to meetings they are sponsored to attend, as they are 'probably off motoring around Europe somewhere!' he claims.

But companies are reluctant to complain about such demands for fear of alienating doctors of influence, who they claim often pit companies against each other in bidding wars for their services.

‘The Code needs to be stronger to help companies deal with these situations and know that any company that does not do the same thing will be exposed. Until that happens everyone is afraid to be the odd ones out,’ he writes.

He urges the AMA to set industry honorarium fee rates to stop bidding wars, and limiting doctors to just one sponsored event per company. He adds that most doctors as well as the public would be shocked by the amount of ‘paid comment’ to be revealed by transparency.”

Drug companies demanding transparency.  Now there’s a switch!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post. I don't have any experience or expertise in the 'health' field, but from having spent a few years in academia being involved in various interactions between the corporate world and the academics, it was clear that when dubious ethical transactions were happening:
    - the corporate world side was sincerely thinking that the academics were initiating the "corruption" and that the corporate were basically passive victims of a "pay for play" academic culture that was overall detrimental to the corporate world.
    - the academics were sincerely thinking that they were passive victims of exploitation from the corporate world, and when participating into dubious "pay for play", they were just powerless pawns in a game whose unspoken rules were driven by the corporate world as well as by the pressure of higher powers of academia.

    From two fighting preschoolers, to warring countries, it seems that in the vast majority of conflicts, both parties are sincerely thinking of themselves as the victim (and are sincerely considering their own transgressions as legitimate defense). My take is that perception is a bigger and more fundamental problem in human life than lying, selfishness or sadism (do we see the world as we are? Or is it how we see the world that define what we become).