Monday, December 8, 2008

Check Out Your Doctor's Conflicts of Interest on the Web

After several weeks of not all that much happening at the Pharma-Medicine-Ethics interface, things have gotten busy again, to the extent that our fellow bloggers have even scooped us in some cases. Herewith I attempt to catch up.

Reed Abelson wrote in the New York Times last week--

--about the Cleveland Clinic's plans to create a new portion of their website in which all conflicts of interest of their staff physicians will be publicly reported. The University of Pennsylvania Medical Center reports a similar program. On the industry side, both Merck and Eli Lilly plan to start posting information on all their payments to physicians in 2009.

Abelson suggests that the media embarrassment suffered by large medical centers when previously undisclosed conflicts of interest are outed has led to this nascent movement, along with the investigative interest that Sen. Charles Grassley has shown in exposing high-rolling academic physicians who somehow have neglected to report their conflicts of interest. (See most recent post,

The Cleveland Clinic mentioned in passing that it expects that only a quarter of its physicians will have anything to report on the new website. HOOKED takes the position that disclosure of conflicts of interest is a relatively unsatisfactory substitute for getting rid of the conflicts in the first place. It remains to be seen whether physicians will be less likely to enter into conflicted relationships with industry when they know that the results will be publicly posted.

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