nbruce writes "Bias in information gathering is a fact of life, something we all need to remember when evaluating sources. â€œA plea for biased information,â€? by Thomas A. M. Kramer, MD in Medscape General Medicine 6(1), 2004 points out that â€œCollecting information from pharmaceutical representatives. . .can be enormously useful for both the practitioner and the patient, as long as one understands the inherent biases. Drug reps are paid to talk to doctors about their products, just as car dealership salespeople are paid to talk about their cars. It is my firm belief that pharmaceutical representatives should be made to earn their money. In their interactions with me, I demand that they teach me something. I will tell them what their competitors are saying about their product and listen to them respond to it, and I will ask them why I should prescribe their product instead of their competitors' and listen to what they have to say. More often than not, I learn something useful from this process. Whatever their bias may be, the representative has access to information from the company that can be quite useful.â€?
Should doctors shut out the drug rep when evaluating drug choices? Should pharmaceutical companies be denied the opportunity to sponsor CME classes for doctors? The author concludes, â€œ. . . we must be involved with the pharmaceutical industry because these people make the drugs. If we don't work with them, not only will we destructively protect our ignorance, we will abdicate any influence on the process of drug development and marketing. The history of the human race is replete with examples of the danger of isolating ourselves from information and institutions because we are frightened of being influenced.â€?"