I was not saddened

21st January 2012 Rapid-response to BMJ:

Ray M on sponsorship of health

I agree with Stephen Whitehead that scepticism is necessary[1]. Therefore, II[2].

The last four meetings I have been invited to have been through the pharmaceutical industry.

We all support development, progression, and innovation within the field of pharmaceuticals, but I have continuing concerns about the association of “education” with marketing.

In the last three months, reporting as accurately as I can, I have had invitations to two meetings organised on new anti-psychotics, and a further Scotland-wide meeting which seemed to centre around Memantine (Lundbeck) whilst largely ignoring the varied dimensions of what it is to grow old. This reminds me of the previously criticised[3] marketing campaign for off-label prescribing of atypical antipsychotics for the elderly and their “challenging behaviour”. I cannot help feeling worried for any vulnerable group who has no voice for the potential of harm as well as good.

I am part of no lobby, but I disclose that I do not rely upon Drug Representatives for my further education.

Ray Moynihan has reason to raise concern. The NHS Trust for which I work has a non-functioning ‘Hospitality Register.’ This is no recent occurrence.

Given Stephen Whitehead’s assurances of openness, I would like to see hospitality registers which are open to all and which record the payments made to health professionals for their participation in sponsored further education. Only then can our patients place a true value on the advice we offer.

[1] Whitehead, Stephen, Chief Executive Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. Rapid Response 17th January 2012 http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2012/01/17/re-forget-sponsorship-and-free-trips%E2%80%94welcome-pharmacare Stephen Whitehead starts his letter: “I was saddened to read your recent opinion piece which criticised joint working partnerships between the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry.”

[2] Moynihan, Ray. Reality Check: Forget sponsorship and free trips – welcome to Pharmacare (Published 4 January 2012) :BMJ2012;344:d8316 http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.d8316?ijkey=zCz4UZFM58VU9nz&keytype=ref

[3] Banergee, Sube. The use of antipsychotic medication for people with dementia: Time for action. A report for the Minister of State for Care Services, commissioned and funded by the Department of Health. 12 November 2009

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