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Friday 7 September 2012
A philosopher’s take on Big Pharma marketing !
You may not expect to find an ivory tower academic whose erudite specialty is philosophy hanging out at drug marketing conferences, but that’s where you would have found Dr. Sergio Sismondo a few years ago. The professor of philosophy at my old stomping ground, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, turned up at the annual meeting of the International Society of Medical Planning Professionals, one of two large organizations representing medical communications firms.
A medical communications firm is a business that sells services to pharmaceutical and other companies for “managing” the publication and placement of scientific research papers for maximal marketing impact, often running a full publicity campaign to help sell the drug being “studied”. This is an alarmingly widespread practice in which drug companies essentially decide what your physician will end up reading in medical journals.
For example, Dr. Sismondo describes the practice like this*:
“Roughly 40% of the sizeable medical research and literature on recently approved drugs is ‘ghost managed‘ by the pharmaceutical industry and its agents.
“Research is performed and articles are written by companies, although apparently independent academics serve as authors on the publications.
“Similarly, the industry hires academic scientists – termed Key Opinion Leaders – to serve as its speakers and to deliver its continuing medical education courses.
“In the ghost management of knowledge, and its dissemination through key opinion leaders, we see the pharmaceutical industry attempting to hide or disguise the interests behind its research and education.”
He added that major medical journals commonly reject 90% of more of all scientific research papers submitted for publication, while several top medical communications companies claim an 80% success rate with the industry-funded manuscripts they submit to journal editors.