Industry-sponsored textbooks! The sky must be falling!

Coming off my last post, I just wanted to put in my two cents on the recent NYT story on the psychiatry textbook that was ghost authored by Drs. Nemeroff and Schatzberg, funded by an unrestricted educational grant from SmithKline Beecham. First, yet another spotlight trained on ghostwriting could have been avoided if the doctors were named as editors rather than authors, since, according to the article, that is the function they provided in the preparation of the book. Second, the book included the requisite disclaimer indicating that the its development was funded by SmithKline Beecham. Ideally, the content of the book would not have been influenced by industry, but that’s what this disclaimer is for—to provide a mechanism for transparency, to let readers know exactly who is funding the book so that they can evaluate the contents as they wish (ie, take them with a grain of salt). The same mechanism is in place for journal supplements. You read them, but take them for what they are worth, industry-sponsored “education” that should be critically evaluated by each reader.

Perhaps the larger question is whether industry-sponsored educational grants should even be applied to the creation of textbooks or supplements. Some pharma companies have actually decided to forgo funding education, since the value of the final products immediately comes into question when the funding source is disclosed. Perhaps this will eventually lead down the slippery slope to the elimination of all industry-sponsored education – and personally, I am not sure whether this would be a good or bad thing. That’s a discussion for another post.

Alternatively, ACCME could require that cigarette box-type labels be placed on industry-sponored textbooks and supplements. Black-and-white, bold-faced text, saying something like “Warning: content has been developed using funds provided by the pharmaceutical industry. Proceed with critical analysis.” I kid, of course. But really, the ghostwriting issue could have been completely avoided by crediting the authors as editors. Ugh.

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One response to “Industry-sponsored textbooks! The sky must be falling!

  1. Dr. Tobin,
    Another well written post. I like the idea of warning labels in the style of cigarrette packs, but seriously, the amount of disclaimers that medical education materials (CME) need is getting ridiculous, in my opinion. I believe that the consumers of these educational products, usually individuals with several advanced degrees, do understand and read with a grain of salt. And even though, like you, I make my living in this industry, perhaps it is time to allow only associations to produce this content without the aid of Industry. But as you said above….I just don’t know.

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