At the Dallas valve meeting even the faculty is for sale 6

[August 6 Update: the Industry Prospectus discussed below has been removed from the DLIV 2010 website. You can download an archived copy here.]

Company banners, ads in program books, sponsored badge holders, headrests on buses with company logos– these are just a few of the commercial items to be found at medical meetings these days. Many of us have grown used to them. But $6000 for industry sponsors to purchase lunch with four faculty members? That’s a new one on me.

I recently received an email invitation to Dallas-Leipzig International Valve 2010, a “two-and-a-half day meeting that will feature a unique cardiology and surgery collaboration in didactic lectures, challenging case studies and intense debates of controversial areas in the management of valvular heart disease.” Attendees can receive 19 hours of CME credit.

The meeting website contains a link to an extraordinary document, Industry Prospectus. This is from the  welcome letter to potential industry supporters from the course directors (Michael Mack, Friedrich Mohr, David Brown, and William Ryan):

Industry support is a driving factor in the success of our meeting, and we strive to offer our supporters the contact they need to build relationships and establish leads.

and

This year, our meeting will not only attract leading healthcare professionals, but it will also offer optimal contact opportunities between physicians and industry leaders.

The document makes very clear that the meeting has been designed to be industry-friendly:

We aim to provide optimal opportunities to our exhibitors and sponsors. Not only have we created sponsorship packages that offer advantageous visibility, contact and traffic benefits, but we also have planned DLIV 2010 with our supporters in mind.

Here are some of the benefits sponsors receive:

• All food & beverage served in the exhibit hall in order to increase
traffic to the booths.
• Scheduled blocks of unchallenged time, during which attendees
will be onsite without meeting obligations.
• Support packages with varied and far-reaching benefits. Please
note that some options are only available to high level sponsors.

Many of the details are banal, and probably unexceptional to those, unlike me, who have experience in this field. I suppose it’s just business as usual that the document outlines sponsorship levels ranging from $150,000 (diamond level) to $25,000 (bronze level), but most sponsors will probably want to go for more than the bronze since sponsors at all the other levels get the attendee list “3 weeks prior to meeting for target marketing.”

But several details caught my eye. On Thursday at 5 PM participants can go to the wine tasting event in the exhibit hall, where they can rate the best of the international wine selection. If I were going to this meeting I might be tempted to attend. (OK, I confess, I’ve gone to events exactly like this at other meetings.) Here’s how the meeting organizer’s describe the event to the sponsors:

Attract attendees to your exhibit booth by serving the best wine. Choose from a provided wine list or choose from a more comprehensive wine list for an additional expense. Exhibit Hall is only open to participating vendors during the tasting.

(Perhaps from now on I’ll take a pass on the wine tasting events.)

Following the wine-tasting event, the lucky participants, presumably sufficiently lubricated, can then go off to the “Evening Event”:

Dining in Dallas in Small Groups with Industry Sponsors

Industry sponsors don’t even need to do their own marketing for this event. The conference organizers promise that they “will market your event to registered attendees in intervals starting 4 weeks prior to event.”

Then there are additional “individual opportunities” outside the sponsorship packages. For $8000 a company can sponsor a lunch symposium, in which they choose from an existing category “or submit a relevant valve- related topic for DLIV committee approval.”

And for $6000 sponsors get to participate in “Meeting of the Minds”:

Choose four faculty members for a private one-on-one meeting. Secure your faculty choice early as faculty will be removed from selection list once chosen.

I think the organizer’s may have missed a big opportunity here. Why only $6000 for 4 faculty? I’m surprised they didn’t think of an auction. I’ll bet there are some faculty members who could fetch way more than $1500…

There’s one other aspect of this meeting that troubles me. On page 8 of the industry prospectus the organizers state that they are “proud to announce an ongoing partnership with theheart.org.” Here’s what they say about the relationship:

Given the success of DLIV 2009 and its potential to grow in years to come, theheart.org recognizes the impact the meeting has in the field of cardiac care. Through its website, online blog and print publications, theheart.org will cover the benefits of attending DLIV 2010; it will forecast key aspects the meeting will offer; it will report on the highlights of the two-and-half day event – and more.

With this highly influential source of publicity, DLIV 2010 offers to its supporters new benefits. By participating in DLIV 2010, you will not only reach the physician leaders who attend the meeting; you will also have the opportunity to make contact and establish relationships with a worldwide audience. Don’t miss out on the chance to reach new audiences, gain additional media benefits and connect your company with the specialty source for news and information.

As many readers may be aware, I am the former editor of theheart.org. I think I’ll leave any comments for others.

Here’s a question I’d like to pose to my readers: do you think this is actually unusual and egregious or is this just a peak behind the curtain looking at something really quite common?

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6 comments

  1. If psychiatry is any indication, this is a mere peak behind the curtain at the standard process that takes place before and during (and probably even after) a medical conference.

  2. This type of thing is very common. Pharma companies have pulled back some due to DOJ investigations, device companies are still going strong.

    Money has a way of skewing thought and decisions – no matter what the recipient says.

    On a more local and insidious level, the on-going practice of pharma companies using local MDs as paid consultants for “promotional” speaker programs continues to affect patient treatment decisions, especially with Medicare cutbacks in such areas as cardiology.

  3. Looks like standard procedure to me — the details may have changed, but this gives “cover” to everyone: the event becomes “multi-sponsored”, which supposedly makes it less like single-sponsored CME events, and therefore “less biased”. And since the donations are to an event, rather than to any particular doctor, no one has to list those donations on the state-mandated registries meant to track how much MDs are receiving from any particular drug or device company.

    Much of what we have thought were “nice amenities” have really been tied to expected sales down the road. This goes for glossy magazines, travel features in newspapers, and dessert parties for professors at national conferences…..

  4. Pingback: Dallas valve meeting withdraws previous statements about its relationship with TheHeart.org « CardioBrief

  5. Pingback: $50K: The Price For A VIP Dinner For 2 With The Cleveland Clinic CEO « CardioBrief

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