Some Doctors Looking to Cut Industry Funding

The number of groups looking to address potential conflicts-of-interests between doctors and the medical products industry continues to increase. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ/The Journal) is reporting that a group of doctors and researchers is now urging medical associations to significantly cut funding from <"">drug and <"">medical device companies.

Late last month we reported that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a release stating that its Board of Trustees voted to not only phase out industry-supported symposia, but to phase out industry-supplied meals at its annual meetings, as well. Prior to that, the state of Massachusetts adopted what are considered by many to be the most comprehensive rules governing gifts, disclosure fees, and other perks normally bestowed upon doctors by drug and medical device makers.

In a well-publicized conflict of interest case, a prominent Harvard psychiatrist promised to deliver positive results to major drug maker Johnson & Johnson (J&J) before the start of some clinical trials for Risperdal (Risperidone), an atypical antipsychotic medication. Among other things, according to a prior Journal piece, an investigation by Senator Charles Grassley (Republican-Iowa) found that from 2000 through 2007, Biederman received $1.6 million from J&J, with only a fraction of that reported to Harvard.

Earlier this year we reported that effective January 1, 2009, some drug manufacturers stopped producing and distributing those free marketing giveaways that show how inappropriately Big Pharma and medicine mix. In 2004, the last year for which such data is available, industry spent over $57 billion on marketing—typically for physician outreach, according to a prior report by—which noted that according to the journal PLoS Medicine, that money was almost twice as much as what was spent on new treatment research and development.

These relationships have prompted intense and growing scrutiny with some Congressional members asking for mandatory reporting of industry payments to the medical community, industry groups strengthening guidelines, and medical societies cutting funding, said the Journal. The Journal also explained that entities such as the American College of Cardiology and American Psychiatric Association provide practice guidelines and continuing education for physicians, noting that doctors look to the groups’ journals and conferences for emerging trends and current research. Of note, healthcare companies also allow funding for medical associations and often foot the bill for conference programs and physician fellowships, said the Journal.

The proposals were published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said the WSJ, which explained that the proposals asks associations to cease general budget support from industry, but do allow groups to accept industry advertising in medical journals and payments for industry-sponsored booths at physician conferences. “You can read the ads, skip the ads, but there’s nothing hidden,” said David J. Rothman, a professor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York, and the article’s lead author, quoted the Journal. “What I don’t like is when I can’t tell if what I’m hearing is science, or marketing in the guise of science,” Rothman added.

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