Although I am not generally enthusiastic about the need for more rules and regulations, I believe that the relationship between some academic physicians and some pharmaceutical companies has gotten completely out of control. The final straw for me was the recent news that scientists in some of these companies have been ghost-writing medical articles about clinical drug trials for academic physicians (see: Merck Wrote Drug Studies for Doctors). The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently published a model policy governing interactions between the schools and the pharmaceutical industry (see: Group Urges Ban on Medical Giveaways). I quote from the article describing this news below with boldface emphasis mine:
Drug and medical device companies should be banned from offering free food, gifts, travel and ghost-writing services to doctors, staff members and students in all 129 of the nation’s medical colleges [according to recommendations from the Association of American Medical Colleges]....Drug companies spend billions wooing doctors — more than they spend on research or consumer advertising. Medical schools, packed with prominent professors and impressionable trainees, are particularly attractive marketing targets. So companies have for decades provided faculty and students free food and gifts, offered lucrative consulting arrangements to top-notch teachers and even ghost-wrote research papers for busy professors....In addition to the gift, food and travel bans, the report recommended that medical schools should “strongly discourage participation by their faculty in industry-sponsored speakers’ bureaus,” in which doctors are paid to promote drug and device benefits....Dr. Vagelos, formerly of Merck, said that the report’s recommendations were certain to face resistance among faculty who liked the present system.
Although I believe that medical school faculty is a good place to start cleaning house, the process of disengaging from some of the pharmaceutical company perks should not stop here. However, the AAMC does wield extensive influence over the nation's medical schools so that this was an appropriate organization to launch this reform effort. Don't you just love the quote from Dr. Vagelos to the effect that this new set of regulations will be opposed by medical school faculty who "like the present system." Duh!