off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid


SMDC holds successful
without Pharma support


Shalamar Medical & Dental College Lahore created history by successfully organizing an international medical conference for the second time consecutively during the last two years without any financial support from the Pharmaceutical Trade and Industry or Medical Device industry. Unlike the medical conferences organized by various professional specialty organizations at Five Star Hotels most of which turn out to be social get-togethers with very little scientific programme, organizers of the SMDC international medical conference held from February 2-4th 2018 at their campus had concentrated on academics. This is evident from the fact that there were 42 preconference workshops, nine keynote speakers, fifty seven invited speakers besides a large number of oral and poster presentations.

Keeping up their past traditions, SMDC administration had invited eminent Key note speakers from overseas as well as Pakistan and it was the quality of the scientific programme which ensured very good attendance in the scientific sessions. On the contrary the medical conferences held at Five Star Hotels usually turn out to be family get together of healthcare professionals all paid for by the pharmaceutical trade and industry which in turn passes it on to the poor patients in the shape of increase in drug prices or services. In most of the conferences held at Five Star hotels, the attendance in scientific sessions is most often very disappointing but there is great rush at the time of tea, lunch and dinner. However, at SMDC conference, there were no un-invited guests at the conference venue which are seen in abundance at conferences held at Five Star Hotels.

Yet another important difference was that while the conferences at Five Star Hotels most often look like a Health Mela with Pharmaceutical Bazar and the number of representatives from the pharmaceutical trade and industry are much more than the conference delegates and participants. However, no representative from the pharma industry or medical device industry was seen at the SMDC conference with the result and there was total concentration on academics. Time management was also excellent with the result that there was enough time for discussion after the presentations.

Shalamar Medical & Dental College was able to put up such a great show simply because it is not run and managed by any medical Seth or Businessman but it is run by a Trust. Whatever they earn, it is re-invested in improving the facilities, services or expansion. Even at present lot of new construction is going on at the campus site to meet the ever increasing demand for more space to house various services and facilities.

Non-compliance with drug therapy is an important cause of treatment failure because a vast majority of the patients cannot afford expensive drugs. Irrational prescribing, over prescribing by healthcare professionals also adds misery to the patients woes. Little do the conference organizers realize that every lunch and dinner taken by a delegate at Five Star Hotels deprives a few patients of their medications? Pharmaceutical trade and industry all over the World sponsors medical conferences, seminars, symposia and all other academic activities but it is restricted to registered conference delegates. No un-invited guests or family members are permitted in the conference venue. Cost of organizing a medical conference can be reduced to a great extent in Pakistan too if the organizers just limit it to the registered delegates and participants only. What is more disturbing is the recent trend whereby some people in the medical profession have started making money by organizing medical conferences and they use all coercive methods to extract millions of rupees from the pharmaceutical trade and industry forcing them to participate in the Pharmaceutical Exhibition and each stall cost millions of rupees. Those who refuse to co-operate are threatened to be aware of the consequences. In the absence of any accountability and monitoring mechanism, such unethical practices have increased manifold during the last few years. If these academic activities are organized at Auditoriums and lecture halls of medical institutions, it will not only ensure academic environment but also reduce conference expenditures tremendously.

There is no harm in getting financial support from the pharma trade and industry but it should be used to develop facilities, renovation of wards, setting up libraries, equipping the service delivery areas, offering scholarships for research, extending travel grants to postgraduates and junior faculty members to attend medical conferences and present their work rather than promoting the hotel industry of Pakistan. It is high time that conscious members of the medical profession must step in and arrest this rot, ensure judicious use of the financial assistance from the pharma trade and industry. If they fail, the days are not far off when the judiciary may take it up and then start monitoring all this just like they have done in case of private medical and dental colleges, interventional cardiac procedures, use of stents for angioplasty and so on.

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