Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Conflict of interest

The Institute of Medicine has released a report on conflict of interest in medical practice.

Collaborations between physicians or medical researchers and pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology companies can benefit society—most notably by promoting the discovery and development of new medications and medical devices that improve individual and public health. However, relationships between medicine and industry may create conflicts of interest, potentially resulting in undue influence on professional judgments.

...The committee’s report stresses the importance of preventing bias and mistrust rather than trying to remedy damage after it is discovered. It focuses specifically on financial conflicts of interest involving pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology companies.

The committee recommends the implementation of policies and procedures that will reduce the risk of conflicts that can jeopardize the integrity of sci­entific investigations, the objectivity of medical education, the quality of patient care, and the public’s trust in medicine.

The New York Times notes the report has stated that doctors, medical schools and hospitals should not accept gifts from pharmaceutical companies.

doctors should stop taking much of the money, gifts and free drug samples they routinely accept from drug and device companies.

And the suggestion is to remove funding from education courses as well
Drug companies spend billions of dollars wooing doctors — more than they spend on research or consumer advertising. Much of this money is spent on giving doctors free drug samples, free food, free medical refresher courses and payments for marketing lectures. The institute’s report recommends that nearly all of these efforts end.
3 brief questions.
  • If medicine was fully privatised would this be as great a concern?
  • While money can be a strong conflict of interest, so is ideology. Do people note competing interests based on philosophical, theological, or political beliefs? Is this a bad thing?
  • Should this be extended to democracy? Should any person receiving financial favours from the government (excluding legitimate work done at governments behest) forfeit their vote? Welfare recipients, subsidised farmers, corporations that have specific laws written for them.

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