Report: Even When Not Asked, Docs Should Disclose Interests

July 2, 2010

Does your relationship with pharma or medical device companies hurt your patient relationship? A new report suggests it could without proper disclosure.

Does your relationship with pharma or medical device companies hurt your patient relationship? A new report suggests it could without proper disclosure.

While noting the importance of the doctor-industry relationship in terms of new innovations, the report also cautions possible conflicts of interest could also impact patient care when money changes hands.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is urging teaching hospitals to establish policies that manage the financial relationships between their physicians and the pharma, biotech and medical device industries to avoid that possibility. Patrick J. Brennan, MD, chairman of the AAMC task force that authored the report, said in a statement that many of the concerns over conflicts of interest in clinical care “are not unique” to the academic community and “can be applied across the practice of medicine.”

The report states that regardless of how financial interests are derived between physicians and the industry, ranging from new drugs to consulting agreements with device makers, “the interests can conflict with or be perceived as conflicting with the primacy of the interests of patients.”

Rather than wonder if a patient is skeptical about a possible relationship to a prescription drug, course of treatment or medical device, the AAMC advises that the information come first from the physician.

Among their recommendations are that information regarding physician-industry relationship be made available to the patient community. The organization urges teaching hospitals to involve patients to help determine what information about such relationships is most useful and how to present this data to specific patient groups.

The report discusses public Web sites where the disclosures are made. But it also notes the discrepancies: some list the exact amount of financial interest, others do not; some are from the industry, some are from docs themselves.

So even with their recommendations, the question remains: What is the best way to divulge a financial relationship with a vendor or other member of the industry?

How are you disclosing such relationships, if you are? Do you agree that greater transparency can result in fewer instances of patient concern?