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Collaboration with drug industry won’t affect clinical decisions, says new guide

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2489 (Published 02 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2489

Rapid Response:

Re: Collaboration with drug industry won’t affect clinical decisions, says new guide

Whose interests lie behind new ‘consensus’?

The new guidance on collaboration between health professionals and big Pharma urges doctors not to be “tempted to accept the negative myths about cooperating with industry”(1). Some ‘myths’ are specifically mentioned: industry influence impairs clinical decision-making and may be perceived negatively by peers. Other myths are clearly implied: industry provision of medical education is flawed; contact with drug reps does more harm than good (2). Given evidence (3) that these are anything but ‘myths’, we assumed that the BMJ, having drawn attention to such problems in a celebrated cover issue (31 May 2003), was again doing so as an April Fool’s spoof. Our amusement was short-lived, however, when we noticed endorsements by an impressive array of UK bodies including the Welsh and Scottish Governments, the BMA, the Lancet, many Royal Colleges, and the Department of Health (2).

How did these diverse bodies with missions quite distinct from for-profit industry (4) come to endorse a document that reads like spin from a commercially-funded PR firm?

This Guidance whitewashes industry’s unethical behaviour (5) and, particularly with these endorsements, risks further undue influence over doctors’ decision-making. Big Pharma has an inevitable commercial agenda that can and must be kept separate from medical education.

1 Dyer C. Collaboration with drug industry won’t affect clinical decisions, says new guide. BMJ 2012;344:e2489
2 Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. Guidance on collaboration between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry. 29 March 2012
http://www.abpi.org.uk/our-work/library/guidelines/Pages/collaboration-g...
3 Menkes DB. New Zealand doctors and the pharmaceutical industry—time to cut the cord? NZ Med J 2011;124:6-8.
4 Lo B. Serving Two Masters — Conflicts of Interest in Academic Medicine. N Engl J Med 2010; 362:669-671
5 Braillon A. Drug industry is now biggest defrauder of US government. BMJ 2012;344:d8219

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 April 2012
David B Menkes
Member
Peter Mansfield, Jörg Schaaber, Tim Reed, Joel Lexchin
Healthy Skepticism
Private Bag 3200, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand