Glaxo Smith Kline is
- the distributor of Nicoderm CQ, a nicotine patch;
- the distributor of Nicorette gum;
- the producer of Wellbutrin, which is used in smoking cessation; and
- apparently is researching new potential smoking cessation pharmaceutical aids.
In addition, Pfizer
- is the manufacturer of Nicotrol, a nicotine patch being promoted by the company as a smoking cessation aid; and
- apparently funds research on the use of chest CT screening to scare smokers into quitting smoking (and thus increasing the pool of potential nicotine patch users).
The Rest of the Story
In my view, the acceptance of pharmaceutical industry sponsorship by a conference which aims to objectively discuss science and objectively consider policy strategies to promote smoking cessation amounts to prostitution of the scientific integrity of the global tobacco control movement.
How can you objectively discuss the population impact of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) use at a conference sponsored by two of the leading nicotine replacement therapy drug companies?
How can you objectively discuss effective national strategies for smoking cessation at a conference sponsored by two of the leading nicotine replacement therapy drug companies?
How can you objectively discuss tobacco product regulation (which has major implications for the way in which nicotine replacement therapy products are marketed) at a conference sponsored by two of the leading nicotine replacement therapy drug companies?
How can you objectively discuss all aspects of individual and population-based approaches to helping people quit smoking at a conference sponsored by two of the leading nicotine replacement therapy drug companies?
The answer, in my opinion, is that you can't.
You can't objectively discuss the appropriate role, if any, of nicotine replacement products in a global smoking cessation strategy when the very conference you are attending is being sponsored by perhaps the two leading companies that have a great financial interest in the results of that discussion.
So the upshot is that the World Conference on Tobacco or Health cannot and will not offer an objective consideration of the potential role of nicotine replacement products in a national and global smoking cessation strategy.
The practice of tobacco control in the United States has already been prostituted by allowing the Chair and several members of the national advisory panel on smoking cessation strategies to serve on the panel despite their significant financial conflicts of interest with Big Pharma (see: post 1; post 2; post 3; post 4).
To prostitute oneself is defined as "selling one's abilities, talent, or name for an unworthy purpose." By accepting Big Pharma money in order to fund its symposium, the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health, in my opinion, is selling its name for what I consider to be an unworthy purpose. The Conference is allowing itself to be used as a pharmaceutical marketing agent, simply to make money, when the over-reliance on pharmaceutical agents is in my opinion one of the main reasons why smoking cessation efforts and policies have been so ineffective.
The preoccupation with nicotine replacement therapy, spurred on by the infusion of pharmaceutical dollars into the tobacco control field, is causing us to lose sight of the actual root of the problem: the addictive state itself. And that is a shame, because it may be severely hampering our efforts to help smokers quit.
The benefits and importance of drugs in the smoking cessation process have been over-emphasized, and I urge readers to read extensively on the web site of John Polito, who I find has the most insightful understanding of the smoking cessation process and the potential role of NRT products as anyone I know in the tobacco control field.
In my view, the acceptance of Big Pharma money to fund a tobacco control conference at which smoking cessation strategy is going to be discussed is not just a private matter. It represents a disservice to the public who we in tobacco control are supposed to serve.
(Thanks to John Polito for the tip.)