A Healthy Dose of Sunshine with a Dash of ContextJune 15, 2012
I’ve always believed there is a great deal of truth to the axiom that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. More specifically, though, it’s certainly true that a full complement of available information enables better decision-making.
This week, as part of its National Dialogue for Healthcare Innovation initiative, the Healthcare Leadership Council hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on the subject of physician-industry collaboration. This is a particularly interesting and important subject in light of the Sunshine Act provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Sunshine provisions, in principle, are a good thing because there should be transparency in the interactions between physicians and industry. They make even more sense, though, if people (and especially policymakers) understand the benefits for patients that result from these collaborations.
Our briefing for congressional staffers certainly underscored that point in a number of ways:
• Dr. Richard Murray, head of the Global Center for Scientific Affairs for Merck & Co. pointed out how academia, physicians and the pharmaceutical industry have worked together numerous times to develop life-changing cures and treatments, citing as a specific the collaborative work that led to Lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug.
• Family practice physician and educator William Silverman, M.D., representing the American Osteopathic Association, pointed out how important it is for young physicians to gain knowledge from educational conferences hosted by industry groups. He said there is too great a flow of new medical innovation for doctors to keep pace without frequent and open sharing of ideas.
• Phyllis Greenberger, the president and CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research, spoke of the importance of gender-based health research and said progress in this area has been aided tremendously by support from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. She said, without that support, it would be difficult to conduct educational outreach on women’s health issues to physicians and researchers. She emphasized that attaching a stigma to industry support will only undermine critical research.
• Dr. David Charles is the Chief Medical Officer of the Vanderbilt University Clinical Neurosciences Institute and was accompanied by one of his clinical trial patients, William Schmalfeldt. Dr. Charles is researching the effects of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for early-stage Parkinson’s Disease patients and made clear that life-changing innovations like DBS wouldn’t take place if not for physicians working cooperatively with the creators and manufacturers of the technology.
We’re going to be conducting more outreach and information-sharing on this topic of physician-industry collaboration. Because, after all, if we’re going to have sunshine, we ought to be very clear on exactly what we’re illuminating.