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Paediatricians vote for college to continue accepting funds from infant formula companies

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i5827 (Published 28 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5827

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Re: Paediatricians vote for college to continue accepting funds from infant formula companies

Right from our undergraduate days in medical school we were taught to stay away from the infant formula companies. In spite of very strict regulations from the medical and paediatric associations the companies kept coming back to the medical schools in the form of conducting quiz and sponsoring academic programs for the students. After my post-graduation I worked in a remote rural hospital in Andhra Pradesh a southern state in India. The gate keeper at the hospital would not allow the representative if he learns that he comes from a formula company. The pressure was built from all the corners, the government, professional bodies, paediatricians and the public. Currently the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, the Indian Medical Association and the Pakistan Paediatric Association does not accept funding from formula companies and setting an example for developed nations. [1]

However I see a different situation in developed economies. The recent vote by the Paediatricians to continue accepting funds from infant formula companies by the college surprises me. [2] The professional bodies of the developed nations should set an example for developing economies. I have personally witnessed the companies coming to doctors saying we have been endorsed by these bodies from overseas. The practitioners who are in remote areas of developing countries for whom the only source of some new information are these representatives and the doctors get influenced or misinformed.

In an era of social media and frequent cross border travelling and immigration it is important that the professionals and professional bodies have some consistent approach as these companies have global presence. The decision taken in London has the potential to influence the medical practices in little towns in India and Africa. I recently came across an immigrant mother who asked me why the paediatricians in India were so much against formula where it is easily accepted overseas. The recently published (WHO) guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children clearly states that caregivers receive clear and accurate information on feeding. [3]

The key question is why would an Industry support the college’s work without having a conflict of interest?

References:

1.https://www.racp.edu.au/docs/default-source/advocacy-library/guidelines-...

2. BMJ 2016;355:i5827

3. http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA69/A69_7Add1-en.pdf

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 November 2016
Sam Ebenezer Athikarisamy
Neonatal Paediatrician
Perth, WA