Pharma, academia ties difficult to unwind

While we're on the subject of financial ties between drugmakers and doctors, we'll ask--as BNet Healthcare does--whether new policies suggested by a recent Institute of Medicine report could really make a difference in the complex dance of pharma and healthcare. Industry is so interwoven with medicine that creating a true arm's length relationship may be an improbable possibility.

Consider continuing medical education. There are already rules in place designed to keep expert teachers free of pharma influence. But where's the expert who hasn't done work on a pharma-funded study, consulted with a drugmaker, or attended a fancy pharma sales dinner? Maybe there are a few, but not enough to staff all the CME that happens every year. Same with FDA advisory committees, whose expert members are supposed to be free of conflicts. Almost every time one of those panels meets, the agency accepts waivers of those conflict rules.

In a way, this is all our faults. It's a natural consequence of longtime government neglect of science, of preferring to let industry pay the freight for research--and accept the higher drug costs and potential conflicts of interest--rather than directly funding research via taxes. The pharma industry ends up paying for the lion's share of all drug research. Without drugmaker money, all sorts of academic research would never get done. So is it any surprise that financial ties between industry and academia, industry and medicine, are so difficult to unwind?

- read the BNet item