Talk about full disclosure

With all the phone calls I've been getting about conflict of interest and the freshly released ACCME Standards for Commercial Support and its related documents, I found this editorial from the L.A. Daily News to be very interesting.

Writer Ellen Stern Harris takes both physicians and pharma to task for "paying doctors to attend all-expense-paid, lavish weekend resort events, where such lectures may take place -- under the guise of gaining credits for Continuing Medical Education" and demands full disclosure: On the doctor's office walls.

    For the enlightenment of patients, it may now be time for the California Legislature, if not Congress, to require physicians to provide annual full-disclosure statements. These might be similar to the conflict-of-interest or financial holdings reports provided by elected and appointed officials. They could be posted prominently on a doctor's waiting room wall, providing something more relevant to read than last year's tattered magazines.

    For example, besides which pharmaceutical companies the physician is being paid by, the products of that drug company should also be listed. In the case of doctors at universities and other teaching hospitals, the names of the pharmaceutical companies funding their research should be listed along with those companies' products.

    It seems that some physicians' primary clients may be part of the world's most profitable industry, big pharma. Other clients may be seen to be the HMOs, leaving the physicians' relationship to patients the least of some doctors' economic concerns.

    It would also be helpful to know if one's physician has ownership in the companies to which the patient is referred for medical testing and diagnostic imaging.

    Carrying this one step further, Congress should require the Securities and Exchange Commission to have pharmaceutical companies' annual reports reflect the amounts paid to which physicians -- and for what purposes. Also, these annual reports should include names of FDA and NIH officials who are paid consultants to these companies, as well as the names of those who left these agencies and subsequently went to work for the companies they formerly were charged with regulating.

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