Interview

Lucas Bechoux wins an SH grant for his research on the influence of the pharmaceutical industry in the medical sector


How to preserve the independence of the medical sector from the pharmaceutical industry? This crucial question, particularly at a time of health crisis, is the subject of Lucas Bechoux's research.

Can you tell us more about your research project?

Interactions between health professionals, the academic world and pharmaceutical companies have led to major scientific advances. However, the potential conflicts of interest that can arise from these relationships often have adverse effects on human health, and can undermine public confidence in the medical world.

The Mediator affair in France is an emblematic example of the abuses caused by a lack of clear regulation of conflicts of interest in the sector. Moreover, studies are multiplying to demonstrate how the influence of drug companies negatively impacts the quality of prescribing by practitioners.

In this context, my project aims to question the independence of the Belgian medical world from the pharmaceutical industry. In order to do so, my research will focus on three main areas: initial training, continuing medical education (CME), and research and medical scientific innovation.

First, I will analyze the concept of influence in medicine through the prism of social sciences. In a second step, I will develop indicators to assess the degree of independence of medical schools, university hospitals and major non-university hospitals in Belgium, through consultation with stakeholders. This work with stakeholders will result in the production of guidelines and recommendations for managing the influence of the pharmaceutical industry in medical education and research.

What made you interested in this subject?

During my second year of my master's degree, I responded to a proposal for a TFE topic from my co-sponsor Dr. François Thoreau. The idea was to develop a ranking of Belgian medical schools according to the quality of their policies for managing conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry. Similar studies had already been conducted in the USA, France and Germany.

This project really fascinated me and that is why I decided to broaden the scope of my research in order to pursue it in the framework of a thesis.

What can this research teach us about today's society?

Medicine occupies a very important place in our Western societies and the current health crisis reminds us of the fundamental role played by health structures.

It is essential to know the place of private interests in a system that must defend the general interest. How do we produce medical knowledge and what model do we want for the medicine of tomorrow? My project has the ambition to contribute to this deep reflection and to mark out the way towards a medicine free of harmful influences and which works in the interest of the patient.

What are the next steps for your research?

In the coming weeks, the ranking of Belgian medical schools that I have carried out together with doctors who are members of the non-profit organization Groupe de Recherche et d'Action pour la Santé will be made public. Our results will be published in an article to be published in the scientific medical journal PLOS ONE. This publication will be a first milestone in my thesis. We hope that it will raise awareness of the importance of controlling the influence of the pharmaceutical industry in the early stages of medical education.

His background

Lucas holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Liege. Since March 2020, he has been working at the Spiral research center as an assistant to Professor Catherine Fallon. He worked on the publication of a report on the impact of urban green and blue spaces on health in the framework of a research project of the Conseil Supérieur de la Santé. He also assisted Dr. Maxime Petit Jean in the realization of the DIGI4FED project funded by BELSPO.

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