Friday, June 19, 2009

Pharmaceutical industry sponsorship of psychiatry conferences

The prospectus for industry sponsorship and exhibition at the 18th European Congress of Psychiatry in Munich in 2010 invites applications for different levels of benefits ranging from platinum to just an ordinary contributor. To obtain platinum, more than 75,000 euros (+VAT) needs to be paid out to be allowed to set up events such as official satellite symposia and "Meet the Professor" sessions. I doubt that the Congress Scientific Committee fails to approve many of these applications, perhaps particularly because the conference would lose the sponsorship money if it did. Full page colour adverts in the conference final programme are allowed by the best sponsors and there are other opportunities for advertising in the conference material. Educational grants in support of particular sessions can be acknowledged in the final programme.

Other options include buying congress bags and the notepads and pens and umbrellas to go in them, sponsoring the presidential dinner and contributing to the Young Psychiatrists' fund. Companies can advertise their logo on computer equipment in the cyber centre, in the facilities for young psychiatrists to review their presentations, in the Speakers' Ready Rooms, on the Congress webcast, and have their name attached to research prizes and scholarship programme winners awards. Just doing a straightforward exhibition also costs money.

I suppose the conference would not run without this sponsorship. Perhaps it's not really an educational event - more a marketing event.

Educational links between drug companies and medical education should cease, as several reports have suggested (eg. recent Royal College of Physicians report Innovating for health: Patients, physicians, the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS see BMJ news report). This means governments being prepared to meet their responsibilities by proper funding for medical education - it should be an element of Barack Obama's healthcare reforms, giving a lead to the rest of the world.

(With thanks to Pat Bracken)