Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pharma critics and pharmascolds

Although the pharmaceutical industry has brought us remarkable advances in patient care it is not above criticism. Pharma critics deliver nuanced, balanced criticism of industry. They are to be distinguished from pharmascolds. Steve Novella, blogging at Science Based Medicine, explains the distinction (my italics):

It has become fashionable, however, to not only criticize the pharmaceutical industry but to demonize them – and the term “big pharma” has come to represent this demonization. Cynicism is a cheap imitation of skepticism – it is the assumption of the worst, without careful thought or any hint of fairness.

He goes on to cite an article accusing the pharmaceutical industry of disease mongering as an example. There are many pharmascolding web sites. You're probably familiar with some of them. They share certain characteristics: they summarily reject research and educational activities that receive support from industry; they automatically assume that any researcher or educator with industry ties is corrupt and untrustworthy; they imply that no important biases or conflicts of interest exist apart from industry; they predictably react with glee at news of industry's embarrassment or misfortune; they label those who question their assumptions as pharma shills; they operate under the illogical assumption that industry's interests are always in conflict with patients' interests.

I've been falsely branded a pharma shill because I have opposed a ban on industry supported CME, have suggested that individual doctors should make their own decisions about interaction with industry, and have criticized many forms of complementary and alternative medicine.

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