Intended for healthcare professionals

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Views & Reviews No Holds Barred

Margaret McCartney: Forever indebted to pharma—doctors must take control of our own education

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 13 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1965

Rapid Response:

Medical education and economies of influence

It is difficult to disagree with McCartney's view that doctors need to wean themselves off industry sponsorship for educational events. The negative effects of being dependent on industry money for educational events have been noted for some time. (1) But other educational mediums also require independence. Guideline committees and medical journals are two additional information/educational mediums that can be biased because of financial conflicts of interest. The point is not new and has been made before. (2) (3) But it bears repeating given how much influence these mediums have on educational content. Indeed, economies of influence can permeate a medical discipline and shape educational content from the ground up.(4) Scandals involving tainted medical information resulting in the loss of human life underscore the seriousness of the situation.(3) Until medicine regains its professional independence, concerns over tainted information in medical education will likely persist - and for good reason.

1. Jerome Kassirer. On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health. Oxford University Press, 2004

2. Jeanne Lenzer; Why we can't trust clinical guidelines: BMJ 2013;346:f3830

3. Richard Smith: Lapses at the New England Journal of Medicine; J R Soc Med. 2006 Aug; 99(8): 380–382.

4.Robert Whitaker, Lisa Cosgrove; Psychiatry Under The Influence; Palgave Macmillan, 2015

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 May 2015
Mark H Wilson
Guelph, On, Canada