Dr Ben Cheah
There has been a recent move by pharmaceutical companies to do away with travel grants to international conferences for doctors. Some argue that this practice is unethical and may be a form of coercion.
If this rule is to be implemented globally, the attendances at many conferences, in particular the smaller regional ones, will suffer greatly. In fact, the developing countries are likely to feel the greatest impact with many international conferences being just too costly to even consider.
With the age of information technology, there is in fact little need to attend these conferences. Most important data are often discussed and regurgitated in many online medical portals.
Many doctors, who are not involved in presentations, often attend these conferences as it serves as an opportunity to form alliances and forging new contacts. Meeting that famous researcher in person and hearing them speak so passionately about their subject gives one a feeling that is unrivaled. These conferences give young doctors the impetus to venture into research and the motivation to pursue a certain topic of interest.
Being in the midst of individuals at the cutting edge of research, bestows an indescribable sense of euphoria and excitement.
This is the magic of international conferences.
Many young enthusiastic doctors have little chances of getting financial grants to attend international conferences. Many institutions reserve the funding for senior doctors. Many of these senior doctors may have attended a tad too many conferences to the extent of exhaustion, often accumulating travel miles for regular upgrades on airplanes.
My personal recommendation is for pharmaceutical companies to continue funding and supporting doctors that may not have the financial capacity or opportunity otherwise to attend these conferences. Their role in providing this financial assistance is vital to enable a bright spark to ignite.
The situation in developed countries may be different and decisions made in these countries should never be adopted in other countries. I am fully aware that many of these pharmaceutical companies originate from more affluent countries but the emerging markets are driving profits these days.
As developing countries struggle to gain prominence in research, pharmaceutical companies should maintain their previous unwavering support for these fledgling economies.