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Conflict of Interest in Conventional Medicine Practice Guidelines

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The April 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has an article written by a group of doctors who recommend that medical professional associations adopt stricter conflict of interest guidelines. The new proposals call for associations to refuse general budget support from the industry.

By contrast, at the American College of Cardiology’s annual convention in March, drug and medical device manufacturers paid $6 million to display their products to the cardiologists. Half of that $6 million, after expenses, went to the College to fund the conference’s educational program. Educational grants from the drug industry provided another $1 million in funding for the educational program at the meeting. Despite this, the College’s chief executive, Jack Lewin, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “They [the drug and medical device industry] have zero impact on the content of any program here. I don’t think that’s evil if it’s well managed.” Dr. Lewin indicated that banning industry support could discourage doctors from attending the conference because it would force registration fees to be increased.

We’re reminded of the recent research that showed a clear correlation between drug company marketing dollars and physician prescribing habits—despite the doctors’ staunch denials that free samples and drug industry marketing techniques affected their prescribing habits.
There is no other profession whose continuing education is paid for by the industry whose products they prescribe. Recent research found that only 11% of the medical procedures and treatment approaches currently practiced in the field of cardiology is backed by hard scientific study. One can’t help wonder what cardiology practice guidelines have been colored by industry funding.

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