AAFP and No Free Lunch

I just finished writing up the AAFP-No Free-Lunch flap up for the December issue of Medical Meetings, but this Times article has a pretty good outline of the whole gifts-to-physicians issue. Here's their bit about No Free Lunch and AAFP:

    A kerfuffle at a meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) in September highlighted a growing perception of conflict of interest between doctors and the corporate world. The activist organization No Free Lunch, which urges physicians to refuse all gift offers, was initially barred from an exhibit hall where corporate sponsors, including consumer-product companies and drugmakers, would be offering giveaways galore. After a deluge of calls from angry AAFP members, the academy eventually allowed No Free Lunch to set up a booth as well.

When I spoke with AAFP executive vice president Douglas Henley, MD, about it last week, he was refreshingly forthright about the whole thing. He said that he had made a snap decision, based on hearing about how the group had acted up at other industry meetings (they are reported to have brought in an undercover journalist to tape the exhibition in 2001, for example), but after speaking with Bob Goodman, MD, No Free Lunch's leader, he was convinced that they would abide by the AAFP exhibitor rules. Which they did, for the most part.

While I hold what No Free Lunch is doing in very high regard, they do have to obey the rules, just like everyone else. But I do thoroughly enjoy the snarky news reports they put out. It's tough for organizations these days to balance the perceptual issues, I would think, of exhibits and sponsorships—lucrative, informational, and educational as they may be—living alongside their purely educational programming. Even with a strong line drawn between the two, it makes people nervous enough that they don't want TV cameras on the show floor.

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