Thursday, April 2, 2009

Physician Leaders Call for Limits on Industry Contributions to Professional Associations

Medical leaders called on physicians to reject funding from pharmaceutical and medical device industries to preserve patient safety and physician integrity. This view is published in the April 1 Journal of the American Medical Association.

The article is authored by 11 present and former medical society leaders who believe that professional medical associations (PMAs) need to distance themselves from industry groups. While the group feels that the ideal relationship would involve no corporate contributions; they recognize that many PMAs rely on these contributions to fund continuing medical education (CME) courses that help the professional development of physicians. Therefore, the group suggests that no more than 25 percent of a PMA's budget be derived from industry contributions.

The group says that PMAs are responsible for educating physicians on the latest advancements in their field and must not appear financially biased in its presentation of new treatment options. According to the group, accepting industry funds for education creates a potential situation where programs are slanted to support the sponsoring company's drug, device, or procedure. The group urges PMAs to form CME committees which would accept non-restricted industry funds and distribute them among educational programs to ensure fairness. Many PMAs have already rewritten their codes of conduct to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

The group says that strict restrictions are only needed for educational funds. Industry presence through advertisements and exhibit hall appearances are clear marketing activities and are less likely to influence a physician's medical judgment.

Congress has also voiced its support for industry-physician transparency. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) have introduced the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (S. 301), which would require companies to report all gifts and payments to physicians totalling more than $100 a year to the Department of Health and Human Services. Those who fail to report would face fines of up to $1 million.

Source: BNA

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