Dr Des Spence was speaking at an Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) debate last week.
On the subject of the drug industry's involvement in educational conferences, which are largely organised by healthcare PR consultancies, Spence said: 'The pharma industry should not have anything to do with education. In my experience of conferences they are little more than junkets. I think there is a strong agenda-setting and distortion if pharma is involved in education.'
But his comments caused consternation among healthcare PR bosses attending the debate. GCI health MD Paul Keirnan hit back: 'Pharmaceutical company scientists are in the perfect place to provide information on disease areas they have spent years studying.'
Spence also called for more active policing of pharma firm representatives, particularly when liaising with hospital staff. He said: 'The problem with the code is that it is not policed. During my career, I have been aware of representatives breaking the code on a daily basis. I also put most of the marketing material I receive in the bin.'
The panel included ABPI president Chris Brinsmead, FT pharmaceutical correspondent Andrew Jack, chairman of the Code of Practice Appeal Board William Harbage and director of post-licensing at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority Dr June Raine.
The panel also debated the reputation of the pharma industry among the public.