JAMA to IDSA–Can you hear me now? Now? How about Now?!
Merrill Goozner continues his insightful beat on conflict of interest articles by JAMA this year. Count them, one, two, three by JAMA--THIS YEAR--SO FAR--AND ITS ONLY MARCH! Does this mark a trend? A turning point for conflicts of interest in Lyme disease? In medicine? Do medical societies have an obligation to hold certain truths to be self evident--that patient concerns come before industry interests and ties?
Can you hear me? Can you hear me now? How about now? The latest is on industry influence on professional associations. Seems like timely reading for the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The article by Rothman et al, “Profession Medical Associations and Their Relationships with Industry—A Proposal for Controlling Conflict of Interest.” calls for medical associations to curtail industry funding and influence of their educational conferences and treatment guidelines.
Why? Because they threaten to undermine the reputation of the entire medical profession.
Why else? Because they “compromise clinical decision making adversely.”
Hear! Hear! Hear! Can you hear me now?
The article notes that industry funding of the activities of medical associations is ‘pervasive’ and holds medical associations to a higher standard of accountability, saying: “Any threat to the integrity of [professional medical associations] must be thoroughly and effectively resolved.” That would be a different approach for the IDSA to employ. Rather than fighting tooth and nail with the Attorney General over meddling with medicine, the IDSA could rise up to the occasion and clean house by trying to do the right thing by patients. Rather than trying to rubberstamp the guidelines adopted by its conflict-ridden Lyme disease guidelines panel, the IDSA could take a stand for integrity.
The article points out that “disclosure of industry relationships by committee members is not sufficient protection” and encourages medical associations to only appoint to guidelines panels members without conflict of interest—that is “no ties to industry”. Merrill’s attention to the drum roll is important. And, he asks the key question: Will any medical associations listen? Let’s hope so. But, if the IDSA’s response to having its guidelines investigated by the Connecticut Attorney General is any indication, I wouldn’t hold my breath. (Sigh.)