Connections between drug makers and educators abound

Pharmaceutical companies have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help veterinary students pay back loans. One condition: that the students practice food-animal medicine for four years.

Connections between drug makers and educators abound

World Bulletin/News Desk

The pharmaceutical industry has strong ties to veterinary education across the United States, providing financial support to professors, researchers and students.

Zoetis, the world's leading animal drug maker, has given $3.6 million in scholarships over the past five years to more than 1,100 U.S. veterinary students. The American Association of Bovine Practitioners, a beef veterinary group, provided $300,000 in grants and scholarships funded by Merck, Zoetis, Cargill and others this year.

A four-year veterinary education costs well over $200,000, and students often leave school with significant debt. But five pharmaceutical companies have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help veterinary students pay back loans. One condition: that the students practice food-animal medicine for four years.

Some students also are paid to serve as representatives of pharmaceutical companies on their campuses. "I don't think they're pushing anything that's going to affect how we practice as veterinarians, but it certainly could be viewed that way," said Alexander Thomson, the Zoetis student representative at Cornell veterinary college. He declined to say how much he is paid.

Leading veterinary professors are also accepting money from the pharmaceutical industry for everything from research to company-scripted promotional speaking.

Such speaking arrangements are banned by many university medical faculties, according to Eric Campbell, a Harvard University professor who studies conflicts of interest between medical doctors and drug companies. "The fact that they're being supported by the companies they're supposed to be overseeing raises issues about the impact of those payments," he said.

Pamela Ruegg, a professor of dairy science at the University of Wisconsin, was paid to speak by Zoetis, among others. Then, she said, Zoetis stopped inviting her to forums when she voiced concerns that antibiotics were being overused on farms. "They wouldn't sponsor me as a speaker because they're mad at me," Ruegg said. "My message is we have to reduce the amount of antimicrobial use and use it properly."

Last week, however, Ruegg said a Zoetis representative called her to ask if the company could distribute a YouTube video she made and a paper she wrote advocating more "watchful waiting" and less antibiotic usage on dairy farms. "It's a favorable development," she said. Zoetis declined to comment.

Mark Papich, a professor of clinical pharmacology at North Carolina State's veterinary college, has received speaking and consulting fees, honoraria, research grants or gifts from nearly every pharmaceutical company, a fact he talks about openly.

"It's a matter of survival for us to try and get support from the pharmaceutical companies," he said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Aralık 2014, 23:24
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