We read with interest the ADV of Koletzko and colleagues, Paediatric Conferences: only a profit-making enterprise? In the words of former President Clinton, ‘we feel their pain’. However, we have some additional thoughts as well. Certainly, one can envision the abuse of conferences – sponsored by, as an example, a pharmaceutical company to promote the use of their own drug. Those examples are easy to decry. But there are other conferences, not presented by formal national or international bodies, that seem much less onerous – and, indeed, very worthwhile. Pediatrix, a for-profit company in the United States, puts on a yearly neonatology conference that is consistently excellent. Vermont-Oxford is a non-profit but not a professional congress organization that has decades of experience in putting on state-of-the-art symposia.
As a general comment, we might ask for a bit more nuance. How do the authors feel about drug company ads in medical journals? About exhibitor booths at the AAP meetings? About drug companies that partner with medical societies to put on meetings? The authors clearly are right to object to the most objectionable of the for-profit conference companies, but do not seem to acknowledge that there are hundreds of variations. What if HCA gets a grant from Pfizer to bring in a grand rounds speaker, and the speaker is a geneticist who is on three corporate advisory boards, holds two patents and is on a speakers' bureau for a chip-maker? Drawing a bright line between business and science these days is not easy.
Nonetheless, we could not agree more with their final sentence ‘Therefore, such companies should critically reconsider whether they wish to support conferences that are organized only for commercial, profit-making purposes.'