Op-Ed: Help Ensure Rural Physician Access to Continuing Pharmaceutical Education within their Community

By: Dr. Majid Mani | Op-Ed in the Imperial Valley Press
August 9, 2017

The California Assembly is considering Senate Bill 790 that would significantly limit both the amount and variations of benefits a pharmaceutical company can give to physicians. Many would say that is a great idea. What most don’t understand is that said benefits include educational training meetings and dinners that profit local patients of the Imperial County.

It is important to note that according to County Health Data 2017, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Imperial County ranks 57th out of 58 in negative Socio-Economic factors and 48th in negative Quality of Life factors. Those rankings combined with a ratio of 1 primary care physician per 4,590 inhabitants means that we have fewer doctors available, resulting in further illness, and additional serious illnesses than a majority of the state.

Because of our rural location, physicians have a significant lack of access to continuing education and training within the community. Although doctors regularly take time to attend education meetings, they cannot hope to stay up-to-date with newest changes in the pharmaceutical industry which occur every year. Since the demand for care is so great, it is only logical that physicians would welcome training and support from pharmaceutical companies. Let’s understand we aren’t talking about a ‘dollars for dinner’ scenario, where physicians are simply handed money for attending training. Due to the Imperial Valley’s rural location and pace at which our doctors have to work, we are talking about educational information that is often shared over lunch or at meetings after a long day with patients. In the end, the value is that patients receive the most effective treatments possible, and that is because our doctors have been informed of the latest improvements and treatments through these gatherings and dinners.

An attempt to limit the amount spent on training physicians by all pharmaceutical companies to $250 per year will be counterproductive to the needs of our patients. Those of us living in rural communities know how hard it is to get additional training … why would anyone seek to further limit already sparse opportunities?

The Imperial County Medical Society urges you as our Assemblyman and all representatives of rural areas to vote NO on this bill, as it is currently written.

Dr. Majid Mani is the President of the Imperial County Medical Society.