Spinal society forces payment disclosure

Now, medical societies are joining the doctor-disclosure parade. The North American Spine Society, which represents U.S. spine surgeons, will now require researchers to disclose not only their relationships with medical-device companies, but also the dollar amounts that change hands.

The move comes in the wake of revelations that prominent surgeons-slash-researchers have been paid large amounts--up to millions of dollars--by device companies. And it's at least in part the result of pressure from Congress, which has been investigating ties between doctors, researchers and industry. Lawsuits brought against device maker Medtronic--which paid $40 million to settle charges that it paid kickbacks to doctors, though it denied wrongdoing--may also have played a role.

The new NASS policy is a hard-hitting one: It applies to all doctors who present studies at medical conferences, and it's "not a voluntary guideline, but a binding covenant which applies to all relationships," the Wall Street Journal reports. Failing to fess up would be punished, with suspension or expulsion from the society, or public letters of censure.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has led the charge for disclosure in the Senate, praised the NASS policy. "This initiative is impressive because of the sanctions it contains for violating the society's own code," he said.

- read the WSJ article