Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Daniel Carlat and Thomas Stossel debated drug company gifts to doctors

---on the New England Cable Network. Maybe it gave an inaccurate impression (it was more of a sound bite than a debate) but at the end of the piece the participants, historically polar opposites, almost seemed to agree about gift giving.

Dr. Stossel, speaking against the proposed Massachusetts legislation banning pharmaceutical company gifts, is concerned more about unintended consequences of a broader anti-corporate agenda and believes gift giving is a moot point. He noted that doctors and industry can easily do without the gifts and that the inquisition against industry freebies has won.

Dr. Carlat seemed to imply that gift giving is his singular concern. Regarding the effect of a gift ban at medical conventions, for example, he said:

The meetings will go on. You can have a large medical meeting without giving gifts out and the doctors will still go to the exhibits and they’ll still presumably get some amount of information. What I’m concerned about is the idea that companies can’t give out medical information unless they give out gifts, and that’s absurd.

If Dr. Stossel thinks we can all do without the freebies and Dr. Carlat thinks it’s OK for industry to exhibit at CME meetings as long as they do away with gifts then where’s the debate?

I agree with Dr. Stossel that there’s a more pervasive agenda to curtail industry support of medical education. While that agenda is not secretive it is largely hidden from popular debate, which focuses on the free meals and trinkets. The portrayal of doctors collectively hooked on Pharma gifts and lobbying out of a sense of entitlement is a straw man.

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