Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reaction to Thomas Stossel’s Medscape commentary on commercial influence

---consisted of a rebuttal by Dr. Howard Brody, Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Texas, Galveston along with two comment threads. Dr. Brody’s arguments, it seems to me, were directed at a straw man as he repeatedly accused Stossel of positions he didn’t hold. From one of the opening paragraphs:

Dr. Stossel has generally expressed surprise and dismay that anyone could imagine that commercial influence in medicine has had any negative consequences. From his vantage point, commerce is an unalloyed good.

Of course, Dr. Stossel said no such thing. Quite the contrary, her argued for a more scholarly and balanced analysis of the relative risks and benefits of commerce in medicine than has been offered to date.


Dr. Stossel, in conclusion, calls for an apparently simple and defensible outcome -- that "we work in a spirit of mutual respect with our industry colleagues to improve physicians' and physician-in-training's understanding of medical product development." What Dr. Stossel never explains, however, is why such "mutual respect" need require that physicians in academia stuff themselves with free lunches and dinners, and stuff their pockets with consulting and speakers' fees.

An eloquent display of moral outrage, perhaps, but, sorry, straw man again.

The reader comments so far favor Stossel. I like these:

When academics stop cashing their paychecks, we will permit being lectured to by the unbiased.

The pompous arrogance of the morality police is breathtaking. Every sophomoric abstraction, every bit of sophistry is trotted out to bash pharmaceutical companies for being in business, making a profit, and having normal customer relations. I am every bit a scientist as any. I go where the evidence takes me. Abstractions and theory are irrelevant. Conflicts of interest are normal, eternal human behavior. Just be transparent and disclose. I have an excellent BS detector. There is no credible evidence of undue influence. If you can find some, show us. I'll decide for myself. Put up, or shut up.

Background: Dr. Thomas Stossel’s commentary.

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