Doctor-Pharma Cooperation: Fruitful Collaboration or Unmitigated Evil?
We live in the age of conflict of interest – hardly a week goes by without a new lawmaker, journalist or celebrity physician being called out for close ties to an industry they supposedly influence. Some of these inquiries are valid and important, especially when doctors have been shown to oversell or overprescribe medications whose parent companies are enriching them for their services.
But there is a vast and separate landscape where physicians and pharmaceutical companies cooperate for more valuable reasons – or so some would argue. Drug creation and development is an arduous and unthinkably expensive process, and discovering useful medications requires deep testing, expert input and patience. Sometimes the doctors who work with pharmaceutical companies do so because of their burnished reputations, as their advice and counsel helps to hasten the process.
All of which brings me to this provocative essay from the Atlantic Monthly, entitled “Getting to the Right Relationship Between Doctors and Drug Companies.” Money quote:
To advance even a solid idea requires, ideally, close communication between industry and outside experts: university researchers, who often developed the science and understand it the best; practicing clinicians, who can describe where the medical needs are the greatest, and what properties an ideal therapeutic would have; and patients, of course, who understand better than anyone else what they need, and where existing approaches may fall short.
We should strive to cultivate, not demonize, these sorts of interactions.
What do you think about this question? Have we gone too far in ascribing malevolent intent to doctors who help develop new drugs, or should we maintain a bright line prohibiting this kind of cooperation?