Physicians may not always disclose industry money

By Tom Nordlie • Published: January 11th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s no secret physicians receive gifts from medical manufacturers.

Companies often reward doctors who research their products, because the publicity can boost sales.

The doctors are expected to disclose these gifts, in the name of transparency.

But according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, it doesn’t always happen.

The study came about after five major manufacturers of artificial knee and hip joints revealed all payments they made to physicians in 2007.

Researchers took those lists and identified payments made to orthopedic surgeons in connection with presentations and other activities at a national conference.

Then researchers checked disclosure statements in the conference program.

The results showed an eighty percent disclosure rate for doctors whose conference activities directly involved artificial knees and hips.

For those whose activities dealt with the general topic of joint replacement, the disclosure rate was fifty percent.

The same was true for doctors who didn’t address joint replacement at all.

Researchers queried doctors who didn’t disclose payments.

Few explained their actions. But the reason most commonly cited was that the payments were unrelated to conference activities.

Should these results bother you?When doctors don’t disclose their ties to industry, it raises questions about their loyalties.

A bill pending in Congress would require medical manufacturers to publicly disclose all payments made to doctors. Regardless, several top drugmakers already have committed to disclosing these financial relationships.

If the bill becomes law, patients will be able to see who accepts rewards for work that could benefit manufacturers.

Then they can decide for themselves if a particular doctor’s relationship to industry is too close for comfort.