Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dr Shill, Part 2

Yesterday, Bob wrote a timely piece on Canadian docs with ulterior motives. Today, I've got some "enthusiatic" ones in our own system:
There's little argument that smoking is detrimental to one's health. And there are few folks who would advise against stop-smoking (aka "smoking cessation") programs. In fact, most (if not all) physicians would advise their smoking patients to quit, and perhaps even offer some suggestions on treatment protocols to help that along.
One such treatment, Chantix, is made by Big Pharma Biggie Pfizer. Recently, Chantix received critical praise in an article published in the "prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine" (gee, one can hardly wait for their swimsuit issue). The AoIM publishes peer-reviewed articles on current medical advances. This one, which urged a "new approach" to smoking, treating it as a chronic disease like diabetes. This new paradigm suggested that "cold turkey" was out, long term medication was in.
On the one hand, shaking things up and looking at common conditions in new ways would seem to have merit. After all, "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." So the idea of trying something new wasn't completely off-base.
The problem was, the authors of the study "disclosed that they are paid by manufacturers of smoking-cessation products for speaking and consulting."
Conflict of interest?
A lot of their "peers" thought so, and it's called into question not just that particular study, but now others, as well. Again, just because the "messenger" may have a vested interest (and the authors vehemently deny that they do) doesn't mean that the message is wrong. But of course, it is certainly valid to question that message, and the research upon which it's predicated.
I would hate to see a promising new treatment cast aside because of the potentially questionable ethics of the study's authors. But I would also think that it's reasonable to put that protocol under the proverbial (and perhaps actual) microscope to ferret out any problems arising from the potential conflict of interest.
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