Full Disclosure
Vol. 6, No.4: April 2007

Last month I wrote about the ethics of Pharma bloggers accepting free dinners from pharma-ceutical companies that they may be blogging about (see “Should Bloggers Dine at Pharma’s Table?“).

The particular case I cited raised some concerns about conflict of interest mostly because it was exclusively a J&J “event” the purpose of which was to pick bloggers’ brains on various topics of interest to J&J. Frankly, I consider that a consultation, rather than entertainment or a simple night out with the J&J boys. In the end, I opted not to attend.

At the time, I hosted a poll on Pharma Marketing Blog asking readers “Should bloggers accept free meals from pharma?” The majority (51%) of respondents said “No, never”, 32% (me included) said “Sometimes, it depends”, and the remainder (17%) sad “Yes, no problem.”

Now bloggers are faced with another ethical dilemma: should they attend a private speaker/blogger reception at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas prior to the Healthcare Blogging Summit 2007 that will be held the next day at that location? Beer and wine will be available in addition to a buffet dinner.

Transparency is Key
Each individual blogger needs to make up his or her mind how to handle conflicts of interest such as this. After some online discussion amongst bloggers in the Pharma BlogosphereTM, a general consensus was reached that the conflict raised by free dinners could be mitigated by being transparent about it. Several bloggers-but not all-who attended the J&J dinner subsequently made their attendance known and expressed their policy regarding accepting “freebies” from the drug industry. Some-mostly the journalist bloggers-insisted on paying their share. Others said there was no conflict worth mentioning.

My Policy
Since I am a speaker at the Summit, I will be attending J&J’s Las Vegas reception.

This is consistent with my policy. When I attend or speak at industry conferences, I, like everyone else, normally take advantage of sponsored lunches, coffee breaks, cocktail receptions, and dinners. As a speaker, I never accept or expect a speaker’s fee, but I do expect reimbursement for travel and hotel expenses. The free food at the sponsored lunches, etc. is part and parcel of sustaining me while on the road in lieu of asking for a stipend to cover food.

In the case of the Las Vegas Blogging Summit, I will NOT be receiving any reimbursement for my substantial travel and hotel or food expenses.

I expect the J&J reception to be cordial and to offer a great opportunity for me to meet people and make contacts, which is very valuable. I thank J&J for this networking opportunity and I am sure it will unduly influence me to be more positive about J&J in my blog and newsletter, of which the April 2007 issue is a prime example!