Wednesday, July 01, 2009

UK National Smoking Cessation Conference Prostitutes Itself By Allowing Itself to Be Bought by Big Pharma; No Wonder Tobacco Control Science is Biased

The 2009 UK National Smoking Cessation Conference was held last week. The conference boasts that: "Presentations, workshops and debates cover all aspects of the policy and practice of helping smokers to stop. The conference is the leading forum for discussion of evidence based service delivery and community innovations." The conference is supported by a wide range of tobacco control and health organizations, including the British Heart Foundation, British Medical Association, British Medical Foundation, and Cancer Research UK.

The Rest of the Story

While this conference might sound good on paper, the rest of the story is that the conference's major sponsors were four large pharmaceutical companies that market smoking cessation products.

The sponsors were:
  • GlaxoSmithKline (which markets Wellbutrin and Zyban, Commit lozenges, Committed Quitters, NiQuitin CQ/Nicoderm, CQ/Nicabate, and Nicorette);
  • McNeil Products Ltd (which markets Nicorette products);
  • Novartis (which markets Nicotinell and Habitrol);
  • Pfizer (which markets Chantix, Nicotrol NS, and Nicotrol Inhaler).
In addition to the overall conference being sponsored by Big Pharma, a number of individual scientific sessions were also sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. For example, the lunch talk on approaches to smoking cessation was sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline. A dinner talk on educating smoking cessation personnel was sponsored by Pfizer. A session on the importance of support in relapse was sponsored by McNeil. And a symposium on best practices was sponsored by Novartis and its Nicotinell product.

If you look at the topics discussed at the conference, you'll note that the entire focus is not on policies to promote smoking cessation, but instead is on ...

... you guessed it ...

... pharmaceutical treatment of nicotine dependence.

This is not a scientific conference at all. It is basically a huge marketing and public relations opportunity for the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture or market smoking cessation products.

Given the extent of the sponsorship -- of both individual sessions and the entire conference -- by Big Pharma, there is simply no way that this conference could have offered a scientifically objective and appropriate treatment of policy issues related to promoting and enhancing smoking cessation.

Even in the one session that acknowledged the role of spontaneous, unplanned, abrupt quit attempts, the emphasis was not on how this argues against a purely pharmaceutical-based model of smoking cessation promotion. Instead, the entire emphasis of the presentation was on how to increase pharmaceutical profits by figuring out a way to get abrupt quitters to use pharmaceutical aids.

By prostituting itself and allowing Big Pharma to essentially co-opt the entire conference, the UK National Smoking Cessation Conference has given up its role as a scientific conference and has instead essentially turned itself into a huge marketing opportunity for the pharmaceutical companies.

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