Sunday, 11 September 2011

Pharmaceutical sponsorship in smoking cessation: Toronto conference, November

Back in April, the World Health Organisation warned health professionals working in tobacco control not to become too involved with pharmaceutical companies. But the horse had already escaped. The creation of a global smoking cessation industry was already in its late stages, and continues to develop apace.

Michael Siegel blogs today on the 7th National Conference on Tobacco or Health being held in Toronto in June with Pfizer as a major sponsor. There is a significant conflict of interest (private v. public), since Pfizer manufactures Champix among other smoking cessation medications. Accepting sponsorship from Pfizer will compromise the integrity of the conference.

In March Siegel wrote a piece about ISPTID: the International Society for the Prevention of Tobacco Induced Diseases, in which he remarked that this society had renounced pharmaceutical funding and declared itself free of all industrial ties (before the advice from WHO had been published in the BMJ). He urges other organisations in this field to follow suit: but it will take a wholesale change for many years before I would have any confidence that the slate was clean of pharmaceutical influence. We know, in addition to the pharma-funded events that Siegel lists, that the major UK conference (UK National Smoking Cessation Conference) relies on pharmaceutical sponsorship.

Grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (a trust part-funded by profits from Johnson & Johnson) can be seen here. The list of grants (using 'tobacco' as a search term) contains some 1,650 entries with over $100,000 awarded for most of them.

It is probable that if all conference organisers wanted to find a willing source of funds for smoking cessation events and they were not permitted to take on pharmaceutical funding, they would find few people willing to come forward, and even fewer with a specific interest in coming forward, year after year in several different locations in any given period.


Klaus K said...

The World Health Organisation has more or less been owned by the pharmaceutical cartel since 1998, where Norwegian doctor and left-wing politician Gro Harlem Brundtland took office as General Director of the WHO. In 1999 she announced a "partnership with the pharmaceutical industry":

Who launches partnership with the pharmaceutical industry to help smokers quit

This partnership was a huge and historic error made by the WHO, because when a public organisation like the WHO teams up with a cartel of the most powerful players in a multinational private business industry, the outcome will always be that money rules.

The WHO in fact gave up on "Health" and replaced it with "Big Money" thanks to Brundtland.

Decades ago the WHO was financed solely by contributions from the member states. Today they are depending on financing from the pharmaceuticals also. This change could not happen without the pharmaceuticals gaining influence. And in times with economic recession it is very likely that the member states' weak ability to provide more contributions means that the pharmaceuticals are gaining even more influence and power.

Therefore it should not be taken too seriously that the WHO "warns health professionals working in tobacco control not to become too involved with pharmaceutical companies".

Since both the WHO and the Tobacco Control are well aware that they cannot work without pharmaceutical funding, this message should be interpreted as a call from WHO to health professionals in the world to avoid letting the relationship with Big Pharma be shown too openly in the media.

WHO sends this call probably because they suddenly realize that Big Pharma can play the part of an "Evil Big Enemy" in the eyes of the public - in the same way WHO and tobacco controllers have been using "Big Tobacco".

Safer Smoke said...

Interesting.... shows the power of the corporations involved.