by PHIL E. BENJAMIN
It is the worse kept secret in professional health and medical policy making that the corporate medical/health industrial complex has its tentacles deeply in what is supposed to be an objective process of health policymaking.
Anyone who has been part of policy setting in professional organizations, and also labor unions, knows the pains it takes to make the proper, democratic decisions. Democratic decision-making is at the heart of policy setting all across organizational behavior.
There should be a firewall between peoples' democratic organization policy setting and the power of the corporations who stand to lose if such policies are set and enforced
But, over the years, as corporate medicine grew and the power of the medical/health industrial complex expanded, especially since the 1980s, the Reagan period to the present time, the power of those corporate interests almost dictates such policies. They don't do this by joining the organizations, they don't have to. They just offer tens of thousands of dollars in the form of benign looking advertising for expensive professional journals. They also offer to pay for dinners, lunches and other foods for conferences. They underwrite the publication of conference proceedings. That indirect influence has become the most direct form of corporate power.
This is another reason that corporate America lobbies extensive in Congress to limit and end federal support for the activities of professional organizations through grants and contracts.
The New England Journal of Medline kicked out its national health legislation policy advocates as its editors in the 1990s; and, now they are trying to recover their reputation after the NEJM leaders moved its policies to be very corporate drug, insurance carrier and medical devise friendly.
An article in the April 2, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, "Professional Medical Associations and their Relationships With Industry; A Proposal for Controlling Conflict of Industry," indicates that some physicians want something new.
The abstract of that article states that professional organizations "play an essential role in defining and advancing health care standards." Then the writers targeted the issue: "Their conferences, continuing medical education courses, practice guidelines, definitions of ethical norms and public advocacy positions carry great weight with physicians and the public."
They state what everyone knows. These organizations: "receive extensive funding from pharmaceutical and device companies, " for those functions.
They state the obvious that the integrity of those organizations is at stake. For some, that integrity must be won back.
A recent group of organizations called the "Strange bedfellow" coalition has been hard at work trying to come up with a national health program that corporate America and peoples' organizations could support. This was the organization that the UAW and SEIU withdrew from.
Drug companies and many other corporate interests remain.
Unfortunately, Families USA and the American Public Health Association remained. The health policy position of the remaining group is far to the right of the Obama Administration's general outline of health policy. Lets hope the membership of these two groups and others in that coalition revolt against their leadership and send emails, faxes and letters opposing those policies directions and the power of drug, insurance and medical device companies.
The JAMA article by the physicians outline some very important restrictions for corporation connections. It is a good list to start with. Adopting these policies and enforcing them is next. Good Luck.