These are part of a new ethics code that dozens of leading medical groups announced Wednesday, aimed at limiting the influence that drug and device makers have over patient care.
It’s the most sweeping move ever taken by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies to curb conflict of interest — a growing concern as private industry bankrolls a greater share of medical research.
The council includes 32 medical societies with 650,000 members, from neurologists and obstetricians to family doctors and pediatricians. They include the American College of Physicians, the American College of Cardiology and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the largest group of cancer specialists in the world.
“We take very seriously the trust that is placed in us by physicians and patients to be authoritative, independent voices in cancer care,” ASCO’s chief, Dr. Allen Lichter, said in a statement. He led the panel that developed the code.
One of its most controversial rules: requiring top leaders of any medical society and top editors of its journals to have no consulting deals or financial ties to industry.
“When a physician stands up to represent medicine and his or her specialty, there shouldn’t be any confusion as to who they’re speaking for,” said Dr. Norman Kahn, the council’s chief executive and a former rural medicine doctor from California.
The code requires groups to:
- Publicly post any industry support the group receives, such as money for continuing education sessions.
- Decline industry funding for developing medical practice guidelines, such as who should get a drug, a test or treatment. Require that most members of a guidelines panel be free of financial ties to industry.
- Disclose any financial ties that leaders and board members have with companies.
- Ban company or product names and logos from pens, bags and other giveaways at conferences.
Fourteen groups in the council, including ASCO and the College of Physicians, have already adopted the code. Most of the rest plan to by the end of the year.
Last year, leading medical journals agreed to use a uniform conflict-of-interest disclosure form for researchers publishing in their journals. The new ethics code the council is adopting should make financial ties more transparent to patients and breed professionalism and trust in doctors, Kahn said.
Dr. Court’s Comments
I certainly think this is a step in the right direction. Pharmaceutical companies control medicine completely now. They control the treatments, the research, the education and worst of all, your options. Their reach is as far as you can possibly imagine.
Treatments that are natural, effective and inexspensive get passed over because Big Pharma wants it that way. They make sure to “educate” (indoctrinate is more like it) as many doctors as possible that any natural remedy is quackery.
Medical guidelines are written by doctors with significant ties to Big Pharma and the insurance companies reimburse treatments based on these guidelines. Let’s use an example to illustrate:
You enter your doctor’s office and he is holding your recent blood test in his hand. He tells you that your cholesterol is high and you need to start Lipitor right away. You ask you doctor if there are any other treatment options, but because your doctor has just been to a conference sponsored by Pfizer (the maker of Lipitor) he tells you that there are no better options for you. He is telling you this because he just learned that “the research” (done by Pfizer) says Lipitor is the most effective treatment for high cholesterol and that it’s the only medication studied that shows it reduces heart attack and stroke risk. He was also told that diet and exercise only reduce cholesterol by 10%-15% so you shouldn’t bother because you need to lower it more than that. All these “facts” he is quoting you are from research Pfizer has conducted on its own product. And if this weren’t enough, your insurance company will pay the most for Lipitor because the guidelines written for cholesterol management were written by a team of 10 physicians, 4 of which had financial ties to Pfizer.
What he didn’t learn at his conference is that things like diet and exercise are very effective tools for reducing cholesterol when applied correctly. Low carbohydrate is the way to go on that one. He also did not mention that things like red yeast rice, niacin and plant sterols are very effective ways to reduce cholesterol without resorting to a poisonous chemical like Lipitor. These things were not mentioned at his conference because alternatives would hurt overall sales. By the way, your insurance company will reimburse you exactly $0 for anything that isn’t a drug because they don’t have billions of pharmaceutical dollars behind them. They also won’t pay for you to go to the gym and actually get healthy.
Hopefully these new guidelines will have an effect, but because they are not federal acts I doubt they will have any real impact. Your best bet is to be your own advocate. If you don’t want to take a drug, find out from a nutritionally trained physician what you can do. If you’re concerned about the effectiveness the fix is simple – do objective testing like blood work to see if what you are doing is working. I think you’ll be surprised to find out just how effective these natural alternatives are.