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    Conflict of interest is a much broader issue than drug/device manufacturers, they aren’t the only, or even the most powerful influence. Drug reps spruik their drug but I’ve never heard a drug rep threaten a doctor for prescribing another company’s drug or using a non-pharmacological intervention. However hospital and Government officials regularly dole out all sorts of threats ranging from censure, sacking or even imprisonment around certain prescribing decisions.

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    Mary Osborn

    Disclosures of conflicts of interest do not make a difference. Health professionals have had a co-dependent relationship with the pharmaceutical industry for a long time. As long as the decision makers in government continue to allow this dependency to continue, as long as the medical colleges continue to allow the industry to run their education and training sessions, as long as the industry is allowed to sponsor and support medical conferences, as long as pharmaceutical industry representatives are allowed to continue to influence health professionals in decision making around prescribing, as long as evidence-based institutions allow the industry to change disease thresholds, as long as journals continue the practice of ‘ghost writing’ NOTHING will ever change.

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    Ben Mullings

    People have been complaining about conflicts of interest in mental health advisory panels too:

    Conflicts of interest go beyond lucrative financial deals, and also extend into political power and control about who gets to speak on behalf of a given health issue and how public funding gets allocated. In the current drama unfolding around cuts to the Better Access to Mental Health Care program, we have consumers, mental health professionals, and concerned members of the public, finding it terribly hard to have their perspective heard against the loud voices of a few hand-picked experts that the government has selected to ratify their decision to cut psychological services:

    There are broader issues in all of this about tokenism in the politics of health policy, where panelists are chosen for their symbolic power, rather than on the basis of whether their position reflects the genuine needs of people in society. It’s as much about being seen to have a token spokesperson to represent a matter of public concern, as it is about the need to have well recognised public figures that will tow the party line. What we end up with is a small group of panelists, with caricatured opinions, that are skewed by vested interests and political ideology. The needs of the both the public and of health practitioners get left at the door.


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