Should doctor groups limit industry funding?

The Journal of the American Medical Association may be fighting to keep internal argument over conflicts of interest a secret, but in public, it's advocating strict limits on industry funding for medical associations.

A set of proposals published this week in JAMA call for associations--such as the American Society of Clinical Oncologists--to refuse general budget support from drug and device companies. Currently, many specialty physicians' groups are partly funded by industry. Companies also sponsor conferences, physician fellowships and buy ads in the societies' journals. The proposed guidelines would allow associations to continue to accept industry advertising and to allow industry-sponsored booths at conferences.

The key distinction, the article's lead author said, is that ads and booths are clearly presenting a company's point of view. "You can read the ads, skip the ads, but there's nothing hidden," David J. Rothman, a professor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, told the Wall Street Journal. "What I don't like is when I can't tell if what I'm hearing is science, or marketing in the guise of science."

But others disagree. The American College of Cardiology's chief told the paper that industry funding has "zero impact on the content of any program here." And PhRMA said that the guidelines could limit the information doctors receive. "It's important to realize that [doctors] have their own sense of integrity," a PhRMA spokeswoman protested.

- read the WSJ story

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