Wednesday, June 01, 2011

American Medical Student Association: Pharm free but in bed with woo!

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is the largest and most influential medical student organization. In 2002 AMSA launched PharmFree, a campaign to limit interaction between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry. The leaders of the campaign purport to be advocates for evidence based medicine. From the website:

AMSA promotes the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of the current best evidence in clinical care.

Sounds great. Straight out of David Sackett's landmark paper on EBM! But the credibility of the campaign is weakened by the fact that AMSA also has a long history of promoting non-evidence based alternative medicine. I was, as far as I know, the first to point out this hypocrisy in 2005. Other bloggers have since taken notice. Now Thomas Sullivan at Policy and Medicine has taken notice and writes:

AMSA sold the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges a booth at the 2011 convention. As the author pointed out, AMSA will not take money from pharmaceutical companies, but they have no problem with taking money from “pseudoscience.” Perhaps a conflict of interest?
Consequently, the author described how he went up to the booth to find out what naturopathy is. He was told that they are “primary care physicians” who treat the “whole patient in a holistic way.” In addition, one of the table reps told the author that naturopathy subscribes to the use of homeopathy, herbalism, acupuncture, therapeutic touch, and “all sorts of other nonsense.” The author also pointed out that their “written materials were more straightforward about their quackishness.” Ultimately, while AMSA “professes to support evidence-based medicine,” the author was disturbed by the fact that AMSA would legitimize “quackery of this sort.”

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