OPEN Journal of medical ethics | 14 Jun 2013
BACKGROUND: Medical schools are grappling with how best to manage industry involvement in medical education. OBJECTIVE: To describe a case study of industry-supported undergraduate medical education related to opioid analgesics. METHOD: Institutional case study. RESULTS: As part of their regular curriculum, Canadian medical students attended pain pharmacotherapy lectures that contained questionable content about the use of opioids for pain management. The lectures were supported by pharmaceutical companies that market opioid analgesics in Canada and the guest lecturer was a member of speakers bureaus of the same companies. These conflicts of interests were not fully disclosed. A reference book that reinforced some of the information in the lectures and that was paid for by a sponsoring company was made available to students. This is the first report of an association between industry sponsorship and the dissemination of potentially dangerous information to medical students. CONCLUSIONS: This case demonstrates the need for better strategies for preventing, identifying and dealing with problematic interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and undergraduate medical education. These might include the avoidance of unnecessary conflicts of interest, more disclosure of conflicts, an open process for dealing with recognised problems and internationally harmonised conflict of interest policies.
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