I have only recently stumbled on to a great blog, " Hooked: Ethics,Medicine and Pharma" written by Howard Brody, M.D., PhD . He is the director for the Institute for Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
In this entry Dr. Brody suggests that the fancy dinners at trendy eateries given by Big Pharma companies are more to reward the speaker than to influence the audience. He talks about what happened in Minnesota where legal constraints exist regarding how much can be spent per doctor per year by drug companies. Of course, if the docs in the audience pay any attention at all to the slides prepared by the "medical education" company or the words of the speaker, all the better. He suggests the talks are basically to reward ( bride) the speaker who is a high prescriber of the medication being lectured about at the talk.
I find it a bit hard to believe that this makes economic sense.Some speakers makes 75K or more per year. How much Lipitor ( or whatever) could one doc prescribe to make that worth while. I have noticed ( yes, I have accepted invitation to a few of these dinner) that many of the attendees are retired docs, nurses and pharmacists so Dr. Brody's comment that the room could be filled with cardboard cutouts and the sponsoring company would be as happy may not be too far off the mark.