Thursday, June 28, 2007

A dose of influence?

A dose of influence?
Drug makers fund MDs' seminars but deny pressure

Dr. Daniel Carlat, a Massachusetts psychiatrist, says it usually takes him no longer than 60 seconds of sitting through a medical education session to guess which pharmaceutical company sponsored it.

If the program highlights the findings of a recent national drug trial that concluded that Zyprexa was more effective in treating schizophrenia than other medications, but otherwise plays down the drug's metabolic side effects, he can guess that Eli Lilly and Co. paid for the program.

On the other hand, if the symposium does not mention that particular drug trial favorable to Zyprexa, but discusses the weight-gain side effects of certain drugs, he can guess that Pfizer, maker of rival antipsychotic Geodon, sponsored the session.

"It's kind of a nudge, nudge, wink, wink situation," said Carlat, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University in Boston.

"Everybody in the field knows what's happening, but the official talk goes on as though everything is fine," added Carlat, who recently started a blog criticizing the relationship between the drug industry and continuing medical education for doctors.

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