Often we hear of the dangers surrounding industry physician collaboration—that drugs can be “over prescribed,” and that new drugs cost more than old ones. But there is another side to that story—new drugs save lives.

As I take my cholesterol meds each day, I am comforted in knowing that the blockage in my arteries will be slowed down by reducing my cholesterol. Education on issues around hypertension and cholesterol may not sound “exciting,” even if these drugs prevent a cardiovascular event 20-30 years in the future, but saving lives in the long run is beneficial.

President Obama’s selections of Francis Collins, MD as director of the National Institutes of Health and Regina Benjamin, MD as surgeon general suggest he is not the anti-industry protagonist that some make him out to be.
As director of the Human Genome Project, Collins happily received help from hundreds of industry physicians and researchers who participated in that project either on loan or working from their own labs.

Benjamin, who practices in coastal Alabama serving under privileged patients, was grateful for the assistance of drug and device companies as her clinic sought to recover from multiple hurricanes.

This past year I got to work closely with Benjamin on the Continuing Medical Education Report from the Council on Judicial and Ethical Affairs at the AMA. It was clear that she wanted what was best for patients and was not an anti-industry zealot.

We can all learn from both Collins and Benjamin that there is room for collaboration. The debate needs to move away from accusations and toward how can we all help each other. When that happens, all the finger-pointing on both sides will fade away.

Tom Sullivan is president of CME provider Rockpointe