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Max Brady: 'If I could change one thing...'

The Managing Director of Litmus MME explains what he would improve within the industry

It would be the perception of medical education that is promoted in Ben Goldacre's book, Bad Pharma. In the preface the author states: 'We like to imagine that doctors are well-educated, when in reality much of their education is funded by industry.' In one sweeping statement, Dr Goldacre reinforces the idea that doctors are badly educated and industry-funded education can't, by definition, be good education.

As a medical communications specialist I believe this is wrong. I encounter doctors on a daily basis who have a healthy appetite for participating in clinically-relevant learning opportunities. I also have first-hand experience, as a participant, observer and developer of medical education that is both best-in-class and industry funded. Furthermore I believe that by following some basic tenets, there should be no reason why industry-sponsored education cannot always be relevant and valuable.

For medical education to be best-in-class it should:

• Meet a relevant unmet need, such as improving the management of a disease, through better prevention, diagnosis or service delivery
• Have clear learning objectives, aligned to the unmet clinical needs, that are evaluated after the activity
• Be developed in collaboration with leading clinicians and content experts
• Present content that is accurate, fair and balanced
• Disclose contributions and funding relationships, including potential conflicts of interest among funders and contributors
• Be engaging, interactive, memorable and effective... because only then will it lead to valuable and desirable changes in the thinking and practice of clinicians.

There is a huge demand for medical education that not only communicates facts, but also facilitates the appraisal of data and ideas, to truly advance knowledge and improve the application of evidence to clinical practice. By following the tenets, I believe clinicians can feel confident that industry-supported learning can indeed be best-in-class. By the same token, medical education professionals and pharma can be optimistic that by providing access to valuable learning experiences, they are ultimately helping to improve the lives of patients.

Dr Goldacre covers a wide range of industry activities in his thought-provoking book – far too vast to address here. However, at least when it comes to physician education, I think we can be clear that when deciding on whether an event is best-in-class, you should judge it using these tenets and not merely on the source of funding.

Max Brady is Managing Director, Litmus MME (part of inVentiv Medical Communications London). For further details contact him at Max on m.brady@litmus-mme.com

23rd January 2013

From: Marketing

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