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Industry Influence Is “An infection”: International Criticism Of Pfizer-Funded Journalism Workshops

Next week, the National Press Foundation offers an “all-expenses-paid, educational program on cancer issues” for journalists, with all expenses paid by Pfizer. I’ve written several times about my criticism of this approach.

The National Press Foundation has offered to let me speak at next week’s event or at a subsequent all-expenses-paid program for journalists on Alzheimer’s disease also underwritten by Pfizer.

I’m unable to attend either event because of prior commitments, but suggested to NPF that they ask Merrill Goozner to speak instead. He’s right in Washington, has written and lectured about conflicts of interest in healthcare, and was available. Goozner told me he has not been contacted. So, since I can’t attend and since critical voices probably won’t be represented at the first workshop, I have posted some video clips of what others might have said if given the opportunity.

Last week, at an international “Selling Sickness” conference in Amsterdam, I talked with several international observers who brought new critical perspectives to the discussion.

Australian journalist Ray Moynihan, who has written books and given many talks about industry influence on medicine, says this practice is “like an infectious disease and maybe we need some sort of treatment.” He says that a foundation that accepts drug company funding for journalism workshops — and journalists who accept such support — are “supporting the marketing strategies” of the drug company funding the effort.

Dr. Peter Mansfield, who heads Healthy Skepticism, Inc., describes medical industry-influenced bias as “an infection that people may not be aware of.” (My interview with him did not focus on this journalism training issue, but his comments were nonetheless relevant to the discussion.)

Dr. Joel Lexchin is a professor in the School of Health Policy and Management at York University and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. He has been a consultant for the province of Ontario, various arms of the Canadian federal government, the World Health Organization, the government of New Zealand and the Australian National Prescribing Service. Lexchin says the defensive reaction of the National Press Foundation — and of journalists who accept the all-expenses-paid “fellowships” — is predictable and is very similar to what industry-influenced doctors often say.

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*


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