New Paradigms for Physician-Industry Relations: Overview and Application for SVS Members
Shortell, Cynthia K
Journal of vascular surgery : official publication, the Society for Vascular Surgery [and] International Society for Cardiovascular Surgery, North American Chapter 2011 Sep; 54(3 Suppl): 26S-30S
Relationships between physicians and their industry partners have ranged from spectacular collaborations that produce extraordinary advances in patient care, such as endovascular aneurysm repair, to humiliating scandals such as extravagant trips and bogus "consulting" agreements resulting in legal actions. It is the latter which have led many to call for the end of all physician-industry relationships, and the former which mandate their preservation. While these two examples are representative of extremes at each end of the spectrum of this issue, in reality the majority of physician-industry relationships are far more complex, and the line between appropriate and inappropriate, and ethical and unethical, is hard to draw. The benefits of our relationships with industry are many: partnering to develop new therapies and technologies, educating and training physicians around new therapies and technologies, support of continuing medical education (CME), fellowship training, and patient education. The pitfall and danger of this relationship is that support from industry, be it a meal, a pen, an educational grant, or flattery, may unduly and inappropriately influence physician decision making around a specific company's product. While it is clear that free trips are not within the realm of proper interaction, what about unrestricted educational grants to institutions, or support of CME activities, professional society meetings, and new device training? As a result of the intense scrutiny of relationships between physicians and industry recently, multiple diverse entities (Association of American Medical Colleges, American Medical Association, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, professional medical associations, academic medical centers, industry, and government) have generated guidelines and policies with very different perspectives, reflective of their different missions. These policies range from vague and lenient, with only basic limitation of the physician-industry relationship, to extremely rigid and strict, with only minimal interaction and mission support permitted. Given the many changes in oversight and expectations for the relationship between physicians and industry, it is important for vascular surgeons to be aware of the background behind these modifications, the evidence that they are needed, and the positions of the diverse organizations and institutions that have already defined their policies on this issue.
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