Medical Groups Adopt New Ethics To Avoid Industry Policy Influence

A coalition of groups representing various medical fields has come up with new ethical guidelines that aim to severely limit the influence of industry on medical policy. 

The new code for interactions with companies was released on April 21 by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS), which represents 32 major medical professional societies and represents 650,000 physicians across the U.S. Overall, the new codes seek to prevent and disclose conflicts of interest and financial ties, promote more independent program development and promote the rise of medical leadership without industry ties.

The new guidelines include a rule to prevent industry from underwriting the development of medical guidelines, and restrictions on allowing industry to promote and give free gifts at medical conferences. The new code also calls for a ban on consulting deals from top medical society leaders and medical journal editors.

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“Physicians and patients count on medical societies to be authoritative, independent voices in science and medicine,” said one of the code’s authors, Dr. Allen Lichter, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “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.”

The new guidelines come in the wake of a sustained media interest in reports that industry-paid doctors and consultants have frequently ghostwritten articles in medical journals, and researchers have repeatedly failed to disclose ties to companies that could be considered a conflict of interest regarding papers they’ve published.

In March, an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) blasted GlaxoSmithKline’s research over the downplayed Avandia side effects had links to the drug maker, and about a quarter of them failed to declare the potential conflict of interest.

Adhering to the code is voluntary for medical societies, and not required to stay a part of the CMSS. However, those who do sign are expected to either adhere to the new ethics code or put in place policies that are even more stringent. In addition, medical associations outside of the CMSS organizations are invited to sign on as well.


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