Saturday, October 20, 2012

Here Come the Vendors

I do a lot of talks about stroke recovery. About 80 per year. I learn so much from the therapists I talk to. Many of them are committed, caring, bright and motivated. I like the fact that I'm doing my talk to good people.

But there is one segment of therapists that can be tough to love. 

Attending my seminars have been lots people from a variety of companies. These companies usually represent products. Sometimes they represent services, clinical trials, organizations, etc. But usually it’s products. And for me, these people can be very dangerous. They either want to know what I'm saying about their product or want me to promote their product. Those who want to know what I'm saying about their product never voluntarily tell me where they work. Those that want to promote their product are just the opposite. At some point in the seminar they'll approach me and talk up their product. And it's always uncomfortable. 

Many of the products have little or no scientific evidence behind them. Doing the research to provide evidence for a product is expensive and laborious. It's quicker, cheaper and less fraught with risk to just put your product to market, and promote it. And I become a part of their promotion. So when I'm approached, it usually feels like hucksterism. It feels like I'm being sold on a product so that my seminar might become a platform for promotion.

People will hand me their card, and talk about the product. That card will become a reminder to look at product up. So how do I look it up? I try to strip away the product name in order to get to the core of the product, and then research that core. For example, let's say somebody is selling Stroke-A-Way. If I look up Stroke-A-Way all I'll find is what Stroke-A-Way wants me to find. So instead, I look up the "active ingredient" (concept, or exercise, or whatever). I try to see if the active ingredient is scientifically based.

But what if it doesn't work? A lot of times I can go straight to clinical research sites during the seminar and look the "active ingredient" up. I can also send out a quick e-mail to experts in the field (I've been in research for a long time; lots of contacts) and ask their opinion.

So: What if the product sucks?

If the product has no evidence, I don't advocate it. And if you're a vendor, and I say your product
has no evidence, you'll be pissed. But you shouldn't be. You're at the course, you read the course description, and you know I'm in research. So... I'm going to do the research.

I wish these folks would read their diploma. On there- someplace- is the word "science." It'll be an Associate of Science, a Bachelor of Science, a Masters of Science, or Doctorate of Science. When you got your license you dedicated yourself to providing treatment options based in... science.

So bringing it up in the seminar is not just dangerous for me, it's dangerous for the vendor. What if, because the vendor made me aware of the product, I research the product. And what if I find no evidence it works? The next time somebody asks me about the product I'll say there's no evidence behind it. I have to. It's my job. It probably would have been better had they not talked to me about it at all.

You know what the most widely read entry in this entire blog is? The entry on neuroaid. I only became aware of the product because they copped the name of this blog; The Stroke Recovery Blog. The theft got my attention, and made me do the research to find out that it...
  • had a very low level of evidence behind it
  • was available in a less expensive form
  • used researchers who had a clear conflict of interest to promote it.
So if you get my attention, be prepared for the inevitable question: Is it evidence-based? This is my job. And I talked to  a lot of stroke survivors who want it to be the job of every clinician. Figure out what works, and then do it. And the stuff the doesn't work. Don't do it.

BTW: Frankly, I don't necessarily advocate the products advertised on this blog. However, I will not accept advertisement for products A)
that clearly don't work or B) competing products exists which better provide the "active ingredient."
By: "stroke recovery blog" "stroke blog"

1 comment:

Amy said...

Peter, are any of your seminars not CEUs? And if so how do I find that out? I got a flyer in the mail this summer for your class, but it was a CEU. :( I don't want to do a CEU but would love to come to a talk.

Blog Archive