Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Should the drug industry work with key opinion leaders? Yes

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 19 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1404
  1. Charlie Buckwell, chief executive
  1. 1 Complete Medical Group, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK10 1AQ
  1. Charlie.Buckwell{at}

Industry commonly works with experts to put across its message. Charlie Buckwell believes that such interaction is essential for medical advancement, but Giovanni Fava (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39541.731493.59) argues that it risks scientific integrity

This question is a microcosm of the broader debate about how the drug industry and clinicians should interact. It leads to two tempting but indefensible end points—either that doctors are immune to marketing and should be free to do as they wish with industry or that industry is inherently corrupting, making all contact with it unethical.1

Both positions are flawed, and the reality is much more complex: neither medicine nor industry can realise their true value independently of one another.1 Both have a role in the advancement and delivery of health care. It is not in the interest of the industry to have its products used incorrectly or in the wrong patients, and there are appreciable benefits to healthcare professionals from interactions between industry and opinion leaders.

Current practice

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations has a clear position on the ethical promotion of prescription medicines. It seeks “to preserve the independence of decisions taken by healthcare …

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