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‘As long as it is for free’

By Lucien Hordijk & Daan Marselis

Most of the demand for (refresher) training courses for doctors in the Netherlands is fulfilled by industry- sponsored programmes. Even after decades  of controversy over drug companies influencing prescribing behaviour, doctors are not willing to pay for these courses themselves, according to a report of The Investigative Desk, published in the Dutch Journal of Medicine. Meanwhile, accreditation procedures of teaching material remain weak. 

The Dutch association of internal medicine, for instance, pushed its own members to accept  the accreditation of an ‘awareness training’ for lysosomal storage diseases, offered by Sanofi-Genzyme. The drug company sells treatments for these disorders for hundreds of thousands of euros per patient and therefore has a major  interest, some members  objected. Carla Hollak, professor in Hereditary Metabolic Diseases of the Amsterdam Academic Hospital, said the association wanted to ‘remain on speaking terms’ with the drug company, because Sanofi-Genzyme is a major contributor to congresses and events. 

The Investigative Desk also uncovered how the drug company Novo Nordisk uses incompany training services for marketing purposes. Doctors’ assistants in the Netherlands are increasingly responsible for diabetes care in first line treatment. Novo Nordisk  invites them to free training programmes which  are in fact  set up as promotional events. This is forbidden in the Netherlands, although the company denies any wrongdoing.  

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