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Kicking the habit starts with kicking drug makers off campus

pharmfree_shirt2.jpgHere’s hoping a movement to ban pharma reps from college campuses gains some momentum. Houston Chronicle reporter Eric Berger writes about the campaign: “Before their careers are even established, many physicians and academic researchers feel entitled to whatever goodies they can get from the pharmaceutical industry, critics say. Hundreds of medical students who gathered in Houston on Friday for an American Medical Students Association meeting are trying to break the chain.”

You can find out more about the association’s National Pharm Free Campaign on their Web site, where the reasons behind the campaign are explained. Simply, the relationship between pharma companies and the medical community is an important one, but one that becomes increasingly problematic as the industry throws more and more cash at physicians and researchers:

The result is influenced prescribing habits that are contrary to the best available medical evidence. Indeed, the “best” medical evidence is often tainted by a conflict of interests: it is funded and selectively reported by those who stand to profit from that ‘research’. This is unsustainable for at least two reasons. For one, our patients’ trust in us is threatened because our clinical decisions appear to be influenced by cheerleaders distributing pens and dinners. Additionally, a cost shift to our patients occurs when companies spend money to influence our prescribing behavior-resulting in unaffordable medications . . . For the sake of our patients and our credibility we must learn to define the relationship between our profession and the pharmaceutical industry on our terms. We must acknowledge that this industry has a valuable role in healthcare, but one that it is currently failing to play. As the gatekeepers to their vast profits, as partners in our patient’s health, and as members of a proud and ancient profession, we have both the ability and the responsibility to take action and to ensure medicine is practiced with the highest scientific and ethical standards.

Margaret Soltan posts about it on University Diaries, where she wonders if it’s a battle that the students can win when pitted against the big money of Big Pharma:

Will PF be effective? UD’s not sanguine. The pharm guys are lobbyists. Instead of lobbying members of Congress, they’re lobbying medical students. Recall the extensive and pretty pointless federal legislation against lobbyists. Some forms of sleaze are difficult, if not impossible, to control.

Public Citizen has been vocal on the issue of pharmaceutical marketing. Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group testified before Congress on the subject last summer. You can find his testimony here.

After that hearing, Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the Physician Payment Sunshine act to require makers of pharamceutical drugs and medical devices to report how much they paid doctors through gifts, junkets and other means.

Kohl, who chairs the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, is working on another bill that would create an “academic detailing program,” which would provide doctors with objective, independent information about prescription medicines. The system would replace the current one of relying on pharmaceutical companies to provide what amounts to marketing materials to physicians.