Iñaki Martínez Nimatuj and Mónica Garcia Asensio: A pharma free medical conference

Iñaki Martínez NimatujOsatzen is the Basque Family Physicians Scientific Society and part of the federation semFYC (the Spanish Family Physicians Society). It is composed of 900 GP partners who pay an annual fee of €66. Our main goal is to generate and share scientific knowledge, and—for that reason—we prioritise transparency, objectivity, and autonomy in both our own scientific activities and in those we attend.

In Spain the presence of Big Pharma is very common at most medical congresses, where in exchange for funding they choose the space, time, and content of their lecture, in which their speakers seldom declare their existing conflicts of interest.

In June, during semFYC’s national congress, Osatzen presented to the National Board and its delegated members the need for a shift towards another kind of congress: one that is more committed to the independence and transparency of scientific activities.

This November, Osatzen will hold its annual congress in San Sebastián. As has been the case for the past two years, this meeting will take place without any support from the pharmaceutical or food industries.

Our main purpose is to provide an independent and quality conference, where speakers must declare their conflicts of interest beforehand. Besides that, once the congress is over, the scientific content will be available for free on the congress website.

Our meetings’ funding comes from the attendees’ payment (with a maximum price of €60 for members), from government grants, and from our partners’ annual fee. Due to the need to minimise costs, speakers receive no remuneration for their talk, and only their trip and accommodation is covered.

In the conviction that our professional ethos encourages us to share knowledge altruistically, we plan to provide a free online broadcast of the general meetings. A Twitter hashtag will also be used to promote discussion among those interested.

The organisation and implementation of successive editions of our conferences, conducted independently of Big Pharma, prove that another format of congress is possible.

This has not been an easy task, and initially it required deliberation and debate by Osatzen’s members and board. We doctors have interpreted Big Pharma’s presence in our training as something normal and necessary for far too long. However, it is essential for a scientific society to keep itself independent of external influences, particularly due to the impact the knowledge generated in its events has on professionals.

It is essential for Osatzen that our partners believe they are attending high quality meetings where the autonomy of the speakers and their sessions are guaranteed. We encourage other scientific societies in Spain and around the world to develop similar policies. Our patients will be the first beneficiaries.

Iñaki Martínez Nimatuj is a GP in Vitoria, Spain, and the secretary of Osatzen. 

Mónica Garcia Asensio is a GP in Santurce, Spain, and the vice president of Osatzen. 

Competing interests: The authors have no competing interests to declare.