Carlat vs Stossel: Little Learned
Harvard physician Tom Stossel and psychiatrist Daniel Carlat recently debated the Massachusetts Senate ban on pharma gifts to physicians. Unfortunately, the 7-minute discussion (hosted by New England Cable News) was given the typical short shrift by TV-based media and did not include input from informed economic or legal perspectives.
However, in the brief time provided, Stossel did attempt to consider the unintended and uninvestigated consequences of banning low-ticket pharma gifts (eg, pens, notepads, sandwiches), such as the loss of state business and jobs. It is important to note that there is little-to-no evidence indicating that such gifts negatively affect physician behavior or health care outcomes. Stossel also indicated that the ban may limit pharma funding to state institutions for research.
On the other hand, Daniel Carlat—a proponent of banning all pharma gifts and pharma-funded CME—would have you believe that physicians are incapable of autonomous judgment and should, therefore, be subject to his non-evidence-based gut morality.