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Don’t restrict funding from drug companies for doctors’ education

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 08 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6452
  1. Neil Skolnik, professor of family and community medicine, Temple University School of Medicine; associate director, Family Medicine Residency Program, Abington Family Medicine, Abington Memorial Hospital, Abington, Pennsylvania 19046, USA
  1. nskolnik{at}

Health systems, hospitals, small practices, and doctors themselves, as well as drug companies, may have incentives that don’t always align with societal good, writes Neil Skolnik. It’s acknowledging potential conflicts of interest and how we manage them that counts

“The central goal of conflicts of interest policies in medicine is to protect the integrity of professional judgment and to preserve public trust,” according to the US Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.1

Debate about potential conflicts of interest has led to proposals to stop drug companies funding continuing medical education and to diminish interactions between drug companies and doctors.2 3 4 5 6 7 8 This debate is healthy and honest—except when it ignores the fact that conflicts of interest are all around us.

Dealing with conflicts of interest is an integral part of living within a successful capitalist culture, where personal and corporate incentives are often simultaneously aligned and in conflict with societies’ needs. Conflicts of interest exist …

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