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35 - Conflict of interest in education and patient care

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 October 2009

Ann Somerville
Affiliation:
Head of Ethics Department British Medical Association London
Peter A. Singer
Affiliation:
University of Toronto
A. M. Viens
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

A company producing drugs for the management of common conditions including asthma and diabetes has offered to pay the salary of a nurse in a doctor's practice. The nurse's role is to audit patients' records, ensuring that those with conditions such as asthma and diabetes are regularly examined and receive up-to-date medication. The doctor thinks this enhances patient care. The nurse provides anonymized patient data to the company and is barred from promoting its products. Information about the company's drugs is regularly provided by a sales team who visit the practice and pay for working lunches with the doctor. A good relationship exists and the company provides occasional gifts and invites the doctor's staff to dinner.

A well-referenced and user-friendly handbook on the medical care of a range of allergies in babies and children has been issued without charge to medical students and practicing doctors. Distribution has been funded by a leading charity whose remit is to raise awareness in society and the profession about childhood allergies. Prescribing advice is included in the handbook and two specific anti-allergy drugs are recommended. They are described as being particularly suitable for babies and young children. Various companies market variations of the same products but the brands named in the free book are glowingly described as effective even in difficult childhood cases. Parents who have also seen the book are starting to request them by name for their children's allergies. Both named brands are produced by the same pharmaceutical company. Student leaders have contacted local doctors and university colleagues urging them to lobby for the book to be withdrawn and to avoid prescribing these products.[…]

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2008

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