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Few US medical schools and medical centres are disclosing industry ties

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c1075 (Published 23 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1075
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne
  1. 1New York

    Few of the leading medical schools and hospitals in the United States tell the public about their academic members’ ties to the drug and device industry, although more institutions now require members to disclose this information to them, say the American Medical Student Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

    Prominent academic physicians who have not told their institutions about lucrative consulting arrangements with drug and device companies have been headline news in recent years in the US (BMJ 2009;338:a3188, doi:10.1136/bmj.a3188; BMJ 2009;339:b2725, doi:10.1136/bmj.b2725).

    The trend is toward greater disclosure, said Kim Cunningham, a spokesperson for the American Medical Students Association. The association has compiled a scorecard of US medical schools’ disclosure practices (www.amsascorecard.org). First published in June 2009, the scorecard is updated as new information comes in.

    Only seven medical schools have received the highest grade, for disclosing past and present industry ties on a publicly available website or disclosing such relations to patients when the relationship might be a conflict of interest. Not all these institutions disclose information on a website. For example, one has a form that a doctor gives to patients who receive an implantable device saying that the doctor has a consulting arrangement with the device’s manufacturer.

    US medical schools, medical centres, and hospitals use their websites to help patients to find a doctor. Most post the biographies of their doctors but very few include information about doctors’ relations with drug and device companies.

    Among the institutions that do reveal ties to industry, the doctor’s biography may say that he or she has received more than $5000 (£3200; €3700) in consulting or speaking fees from a list of companies, or it may say that the doctor has consulted for a list of companies.

    The American Association of Medical Colleges has called for greater disclosure of conflicts of interest. Ann Bonham, its chief scientific officer, told the BMJ that the association thought that about 150 academic medical centres had policies on conflicts of interest in place. The association represents all 131 accredited US medical schools, 17 Canadian medical schools, and about 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, with about 125 000 faculty members, 75 000 medical students, and 106 000 residents.

    In 2008 Arthur Rubenstein, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s school of medicine, announced that the institution would begin posting on the internet information about faculty members’ paid “extramural activities” because “it is the right thing to do” (www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/publications/PENNMedicine/files/PENNMedicine_2009_02_spring41_LastWord.pdf).

    People who view a doctor’s biography at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania can, on a separate page, enter the doctor’s name to check “faculty compensated outside activities disclosure.” That may show, for example, that a surgeon received fees of $1000 to $9999 from an industry source or received fees of more than $10 000.

    The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, an internationally known centre for orthopaedics, has required information about doctors’ ties to the industry for about 15 years and began posting the information in July 2009, said Sharon Kurtz, the hospital’s vice president of corporate compliance and internal audit. “It’s being a good citizen,” she told the BMJ. Doctors’ biographies on its website list industry relations but not how much the doctor received, although this will have been reported to the hospital.

    The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio tells patients whether a doctor received $5000 or more from industry. Stanford University in California has similar information for patients on its website.

    Notes

    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1075

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