Back in 2006, Stanford University's medical school garnered a lot of praise for giving pharmaceutical sales reps the boot from campus and banning free lunches and handouts for physicians, paid for by drug companies. While that decision may not have gone over so well with hungry Stanford med school residents or those who prefer their writing implements be sponsored by Lipitor, it is a necessary step to prevent corporate influence on Stanford's staff. The only problem is, Stanford hasn't been enforcing the part that is most profitable for their faculty: paid speaking gigs.
In the Chronicle's examination of ProPublica's investigation in to the influence of corporate marketing dollars on medical providers, the paper reveals that "more than a dozen" of Stanford's doctors were paid to speak in the last year since the ban was put in to effect. Two of the guilty parties even raked in six figures from sponsored speaking engagements. The heart of the problem, per the Chronicle:
Critics of the practice say delivering talks for drug companies is incompatible with teaching future generations of physicians. That's because drug firms typically pick the topic of the lecture, train the speakers and require them to use company-provided presentation slides.
Since being called out by ProPublica's report, some Stanford faculty members have admitted to being in the wrong, while others defend their talks on the grounds that they prepared lecture materials without any outside influence. That still leaves a fuzzy gray area where a lecturer can claim "control" over a lecture by agreeing with company-provided materials, as was the case for UCSF's chief of thoracic surgery who was paid out a cool $94,000 to speak about a Lung Cancer drug from Eli Lilly & Co. While he insists that he would "unquestionably refuse" to say something he didn't believe in, there's probably lot of wiggle room in an extra 100 grand a year.