The rampant wining and dining of doctors may soon be a thing of the past, if the latest recommendations of a powerful medical group are to be implemented.
The report is timely, given recent revelations Australian doctors are “educated” at close to 30, 000 company sponsored events every year, many of which take place at restaurants, resorts and top hotels.
The Association of American Medical Colleges, an umbrella group representing over a hundred medical schools, has just released a report calling for a ban on all gifts, and a winding back of the wining and dining that passes so often for “education.”
Two years ago the AAMC set up a special Task Force to investigate the impact of drug company funding, and its findings paint a devastating picture of industry influence inside American universities.
The report finds in recent decades “medical schools and teaching hospitals have become increasingly dependent on industry support for their core educational missions.”
Moreover, the Task Force finds industry support can “influence the objectivity and integrity” of the universities, “calling into question” whether academics taking money from drug companies are working in the interests of the public, or their industry sponsors.
Among many recommendations for change, the Task Force calls for an end to all gift-giving, a ban on ghost-writing, and an end to drug and device-makers providing free food at “educational” events, not accredited by professional bodies.
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Importantly the report urges medical schools to stop staff becoming paid hacks: “Academic medical centres should strongly discourage participation by their faculty in industry-sponsored speakers’ bureaus.” Many senior specialists, in the US and Australia, regularly act as paid speakers to industry, at the same time as claiming they are independent.
Perhaps the most significant call is for a new form of “objective” medical education, which may open the door to a new system free of direct industry funding.
Despite its concerns about influence, the report calls for a continuing relationship between universities and industry, as long as it’s managed in a way that sustains public trust.
Crikey asked the Australian Medical Association for comment on the new report, and whether it remained comfortable doctors were attending 30 000 “educational” events sponsored by industry annually. The AMA declined to comment.