The Council of Medical Specialty Societies, which includes 32 physician groups with some 650,000 members, has adopted a new ethics code designed to limit the influence that drug and device makers have over patient care. Among the groups represented are the American College of Cardiology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians.
In doing so, the CMSS addresses an issue that has roiled the pharmaceutical industry and attracted withering attention from consumer groups and government officials, who have increasingly complained that conflicts can skew patient treatment. In recent years, the concerns have led to scrutiny of freebies, continuing medical education, research grants and fees for speaking and consulting. In response, a few big drugmakers have begun disclosing such ties (background here, here and here.
“Physicians and patients count on medical societies to be authoritative, independent voices in science and medicine,” Allen Lichter, who heads the American Society of Clinical Oncology and chairs the CMSS Task Force on Professionalism and Conflict of Interest, says in a statement. "By adopting this code, societies demonstrate their commitment to the highest level of ethical standards in their activities and to providing the best possible care for patients and populations.”
Conflicts of Interest: Develop and publicly post policies and procedures to disclose and manage conflicts of interest among those who participate in society activities (e.g., medical meetings, clinical practice guidelines, scientific journals).
Financial Disclosure: Publicly disclose donations and support received from for-profit companies in the health sector, and disclose Board members’ financial and uncompensated relationships with companies. · Independent Program Development: Develop and make publicly available policies and procedures that ensure that educational programs, advocacy positions, and research grants are developed independent of industry supporters.
Independent Leadership: Prohibit society leaders (presidents, CEOs, and editors-in-chief of society journals) from having direct financial relationships with relevant for-profit companies in the health care sector.
Photo courtesy of Jerome Kassirer