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Cleveland Clinic Leads the Way on Full Disclosure

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, December 05, 2008 4:11 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Conflicts of Interest, Dangerous Drugs, Drug Research, Medical Devices, Sen. Grassley


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / generic doctor/ twohumans

To help inform patients whether their doctors are making money from drug and medical device companies, hospitals are pushing for full disclosure of their financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

One of the nation’s leading medical centers, The Cleveland Clinic, will announce this week on its Web site, the decision to fully disclose all of its scientists’ and doctors’ financial ties with drug companies and medical device makers.

Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic says, “Over time it came to our attention that we did not want patients to be doubtful that we were making decisions regarding their medical care based on something other than what was in their best interest.”

“Due to many of us having relationships with industry to help promote new and improved drugs and products, we thought we could avoid any potential conflicts of interest by being absolutely transparent about such issues, he said.”

All of Cleveland Clinic’s 1,800 physicians gave full disclosures which the Clinic has reviewed with them to ensure accuracy.

All too often, doctors’ ties to the pharmaceutical industry remain a secret, but in recent years there has been a push toward public disclosure of this information.

For decades, pharmaceutical companies have showered billions on the nation’s academics, medical doctors and researchers. Perks included everything from free pens to wide screen televisions, trips to Hawaii and golf resorts.

Many experts are praising the Clinic for their bold and necessary actions, arguing that doctors’ treatment decisions may have been influenced by the considerable sums of money provided to them by device and drug companies in the form of consulting and speaking fees, equities and royalties.

“A key issue is helping patients to understand what these relationships mean in terms of care and affect on society,” said Dr. Peter Whitehouse, professor of neurology at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

“The souls of medicine and universities, not just doctors, are at stake.”

ABCNews.com asked other medical centers if they were planning to make disclosures about their doctors’ financial ties. The University of Wisconsin and Duke University, the centers that have responded thus far, plan to adopt measures comparable to Cleveland Clinic.

Conflict of Interest

Many experts feel the push for full disclosure is a double-edged sword, hurting the U.S. health-care system, just as much as it helps.

“We, as physicians cannot do the things that we do and provide the care that we provide… without the tools afforded by the industry,” said Dr. Laurence Epstein, chief of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Conversely, the companies would not know what to develop or how to refine the technology without critical input from physicians. Physicians should be compensated fairly for the time they spend on these endeavors.”

Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is aggressively advocating transparency in the medical establishment and is promoting the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which will require drug companies and medical device makers to disclose any payments of value above $500 to physicians. #

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