When you go to your doctor and leave with a prescription for a fancy new drug, how do you know that it’s really in your best interest? You don’t. An eye-opening new study shows that 67% of academic leaders at US medical schools and teaching hospitals have received some type of financial support from the pharmaceutical industry. The money was used for education, food, drinks, travel, and meetings, and 27% of the department heads had recently worked as paid consultants for the drug industry.
The pharmaceutical industry brushes off concern about these practices, saying that just because the industry has financial ties to medical education doesn’t mean that the relationships are problematic. But how can they not be problematic? How can a doctor who spent several years in medical school, working in a department surrounded by drug industry money, begin practicing medicine with a truly unbiased view? If the department head at a medical school is going on trips paid for by the drug industry, and speaking or consulting on behalf of the industry, how can we expect that what is taught in the department with regards to the drug company will be unbiased? We can’t.
Given the crucially important nature of many of the medications people use on a daily basis, there should never be even a hint of financial impropriety on the part of the drug industry or the medical profession. Medical students should receive pharmaceutical information from peer-reviewed research, presented by unbiased researchers. The pharmaceutical industry should never be allowed to hire an acting medical professor or currently practicing doctor as a speaker or consultant. Nor should practicing doctors receive any sort of financial perks from any drug company.
Obviously the pharmaceutical industry needs trained medical professionals to act as consultants, researchers, and speakers. But these should be jobs in and of themselves – not a side job for a person who is actively engaged in training doctors or seeing patients. Otherwise there is simply no possibility that the medical profession can be expected to dispense prescriptions based solely on unbiased medical research.