I was recently invited to an education event sponsored by a pharma company. I was aware of the potential bias of the education but felt I should offer a bit of support for the sales rep.  In the past, I have seen some great talks sponsored by pharma companies with a few added slides specifically on the product or medication made by the company.  Overall, there was usually a true education to the event, with a little bit of sales speech to it which I could identify and differentiate.  

However this education event took the art of education or persuasion to the next level. The speaker was a specialist and considered to be an expert in the field. I had no doubt of his knowledge, his experience, his insight into the field as well as his knowledge of how medications should be used. He was well versed in the various clinical trials, able to illustrate complex concepts in captivating stories, explain  mind-boggling theories with few simple words.  Yet, it was not an education event; it was a sales and marketing talk in disguise.  As the speaker clicked through each slide of his presentation (that was developed by the pharma company), he was able to end each slide with a note on how he would support the medication sponsored by the company, with examples from his real life practice setting. The thing is, he wasn’t lying at all. I agree with all the statements he made at the talk, particularly about the benefits of this particular medication. But he also did not present other valuable information that would be in favour of the competitor medications.

As I sat there to be amused by his “education”, I looked around to see the small group of physicians in the room. They looked so mesmerized by his eloquent speech, seeking his advice on how to manage some very complicated patients in their setting. I was surprised to finally meet one doctor who was always too busy to see his patients in the nursing home. Yet he was free to attend this “education” event.

I left the event feeling very disappointed. I didn’t learn a thing, I thought. Well perhaps I did.  I learned the art of persuasion in medicine. Don’t believe everything that the experts tell you. You still have to do your own research and apply some critical thinking.

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