Pfizer (PFE) can't catch a break in Canada right now. It's being blasted for a C$780,000 continuing medical education program it has set up through the Canadian Medical Association. Critics believe that doctor education should not be influenced by drug companies, which have a different set of interests than patients. The Globe and Mail:
"My feeling is that the pharmaceutical industry has no business at all educating doctors," said Arnold Relman, professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. "There's no question that if you're paying the piper, you influence the tune that the piper is going to play."A few days before, Pfizer was the focus of outrage when it emerged that Dr. Bernard Prigent, vp/medical director of Pfizer Canada was appointed to the Governing Council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the body responsible for policy in Canada's public healthcare system. A petition was started to force him to step down. "This appointment is indefensible," the petition states. The Mark News called it "an intractable structural conflict of interest." More than 3,000 people have signed it so far.
The CMA defended Pfizer's involvement in its doctor education programs in the G&M:
"There's no connection between the funder and the people who are actually providing the content," said the CMA's Dr. Sam Shortt.Interestingly, Pfizer said it would curtail its CME spending last year after too many conflicts of interest were found between drug companies funding CME and the content of the courses taught. Pfizer, which spent $80 million a year on CME prior to the Wyeth merger, said in a press release:
"Pfizer is eliminating all direct funding for physician continuing medical education (CME) programs provided by medical education and communication companies (MECCs)."But the company left in place CME activities with universities and health associations, such as the CMA. I guess all that MECC money had to go somewhere.