Medical groups voluntarily tighten ethics rules

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Writing for NPR’s health blog, Maggie Mertens reports that while recently passed reform legislation includes the “Physician Payments Sunshine Act” (PDF) that will require companies to report any payments or gifts to physicians over $10 in value starting in 2012 (and reported and made available in a public database in 2013), some groups are getting a jump on the rules and voluntarily tightening their own conflict of interest policies.

Take, for instance, the recent decision by a bunch of medical specialty groups to stop taking industry money when coming up with guidelines for treatment. The Council of Medical Specialty Sciences, representing groups like the American College of Physicians, the American College of Cardiology and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, unveiled new rules on conflicts of interest last week. Thirteen of the member groups have adopted them so far, with the others saying they aren’t far behind. The rules also require that all funding from pharmaceutical and device-making companies to board members or groups will be publicly disclosed. Swag at medical conferences becomes a no-no, although big drugmakers had said a few years back they were going to stop the giveaways of medicine-branded pens, logoed tote bags and that sort of thing anyway.

For a discussion of the challenges reporters face when investigating conflicts of interest, read Elizabeth Bahm’s AHCJ article about a related panel at the recent Health Journalism 2010 conference, and this related article by John Fauber.

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