Physician Ties To Prescription Drug, Device Companies Uncovered

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and its health system, known collectively as Penn Medicine, plan to launch a Web site that will provide information about physicians' and scientists' financial ties to pharmaceutical and medical device companies, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The move is part of an "emerging trend in response to growing concerns about medical conflicts of interest," according to the Inquirer.

The Web site will expand on Penn Medicine's current conflict-of-interest policy, which bans staff from accepting gifts, meals and no-cost drug samples from pharmaceutical companies. Arthur Rubenstien, dean of the medical school and head of Penn Medicine said, "When all of us are up there transparently, it may make us a little more responsible."

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) are pushing legislation that would require that information on industry payments to physicians of more than $500 be made available in a public national database. In addition, several drugmakers such as Eli Lilly and Merck said they would begin disclosing payments made to physicians next year, the Inquirer reports.

Cleveland Clinic


The Cleveland Clinic this week began posting on its Web site disclosures of physicians' and researchers' business relationships and financial ties (Goldstein, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/5). According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the site does not post the exact amounts physicians receive from the companies, but the clinic plans to begin disclosing them next year. Sidney Wolfe, director of the Health Research Group of Public Citizen, said, "Knowing what amount a doctor is getting from a company is very important. If someone is getting $50,000 a year, that makes a huge difference."

Stuart Youngner, chair of the Department of Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, said, "The more transparency the better," adding that Cleveland Clinic's effort is a starting point. Mary Beth Happ of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Nursing and Center for Bioethics and Health Law said, "I think that patients are becoming better-informed consumers. Knowing about potential conflicts of interest is a part of that" (O'Malley/Mazzolini, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/3).


The Cleveland Clinic "took a big step this week ... to raise the level of trust with the public" by disclosing all outside activities of physicians on its Web site, according to an Akron Beacon Journal editorial. Medical professionals, policymakers and regulators "have an obligation to ensure [health] decisions are made without a mind to their own interests and advantage," the editorial states, adding, and "A patient must have some confidence ... that a physician is not prescribing a particular drug or device because of a financial stake in the manufacturer."

According to the editorial, "Policymakers need confidence in the integrity of research findings without wondering whether the researchers are paid consultants or receive funding for pet projects from a manufacturer." The editorial states, "The pressure for transparency comes at a time when medical researchers and providers increasingly need to work closely with industry partners to develop and adopt innovative technologies and products." The disclosures "should make it easier to navigate the essential relations without jeopardizing trust in the process," the editorial concludes (Akron Beacon Journal, 12/5).

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