Drug Makers Fail To Disclose Event SponsorshipNov 3, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
We’ve long been saying so, and the issue has made headlines many times in recent months; now PLoS Medicine is writing that ties between Big Pharma and health professionals—are not sufficiently broad, reports Science Daily. In this case, the issue concerns Australian reporting standards; however, the problem has been noted in a variety of global sites, including the United States.
David Henry, from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues, looked at information released by Medicines Australia, which is that country’s “pharmaceutical industry representative body,” said Science Daily. Since 2007, Medicines Australia has been mandated to report information from “industry-sponsored function and educational event for health professionals,” explained Science Daily. The information must also include the event’s venue, cost, attendees, and “hospitality” provided, but does not require disclosure regarding speaker names, finances transacted between industry and speakers, and the companies’ part in selecting a speaker, noted Science Daily.
According to the research, said Science Daily, during 2007 in Australia, there were approximately 600 industry-sponsored events each week, with more than one-third taking place in “restaurants, hotels, or function centres” and hospitality, which includes refreshments and accommodations costing $17 million of the $31 million (Australian dollars) spent on such functions. The research also revealed that the sub-specialties most frequently hosted were oncologists (17.8 percent) and psychiatrists (15.2 percent), with family practice physicians at one-third and nurses at one-quarter of all events, reported Science Daily. The two sub-specialties cost more per person than other groups.
The researchers concluded that reporting standards do not allow sufficient transparency nor do the standards permit sufficient “assessment of the educational content” of these events, an issue since physicians can receive continuing medical education points, said Science Daily. The team recommends the topic and speakers be released.
In the United States, the relationships and finances exchanged between Industry and researchers have long been making the news and point to a bias in which patients are often not the prime concern.
Conflicts of interests can result in fines, fund freezes, and future grant loss, said the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an earlier report. To help ensure no conflict-of-interest opportunities present themselves, the U.S. government mandates all such conflicts be reported by clinical researchers responsible for reviewing medications in advance of drug companies applying for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. But, earlier this year, the Inspector General’s Office said the FDA has not proven itself reliable when it comes to finding drug research conflicts, a huge issue these days between medical professionals and industry.
Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine recommended that researchers, medical school faculty, and private-practice doctors to forego gifts of any amount from medical companies and to decline to publish or present material ghostwritten or otherwise controlled by industry. Consulting arrangements should be limited to legitimate expert services spelled out in formal contracts and paid for at a fair market rate. Physicians should limit their interactions with company sales representatives and use free drug samples only for patients who cannot afford medications, the Institute said.