New ethics code draws clear line between physicians and drug companies

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Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - April 2010

No specific guidelines included on how restrictive financial interactions should be

On the heels of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which requires drug companies to disclose their financial relationships with physicians and was part of the healthcare reform act recently signed into law by President Obama, the Chicago-based Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) has adopted a strict, albeit voluntary code of ethics governing medical societies’ interactions with drug companies.

It’s strict in reporting and disclosure rules, but still allows CE sponsorship, journal advertising, conference sponsorships and the like, within some limitations. The code does not restrict charitable contributions or financial support from drug companies, but does prohibit key society leaders from having direct financial relationships with drug companies during their term of service. The code does allow for uncompensated relationships, however.

“One of the difficulties for all of us on the society side of things was that there were no set rules,” Allen Licther, MD, chair of the CMSS Task Force on Professionalism and Conflict of Interest, told HemOnc Today. “Now at least we can say, ‘Here is what we promise to do and here is what we promise not to do,’ and then at least we can have an honest discussion about whether or not those are right things or whether the policies are too strict. But, for the first time, we have tried to establish a base from which we can all operate.”

The 25-page code, which CMSS says took nearly a year to develop, has been adopted by 12 medical societies so far, including the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. CMSS says additional member and nonmember societies will be added to the list of signers soon.

Download the code at www.CMSS.org.

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