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Cleveland Clinic Steps Up Conflict Monitoring

After a year of criticism over its doctors' ties to the drug and device industries, the Cleveland Clinic is taking steps to address potential conflicts of interest, the New York Times reports today. This includes creating a database to flag potential conflicts and setting up a committee to address them. Not surprisingly, the Times makes no distinction between drugs and devices, despite the fact that clinician participation is essential to device development.

Once again Reed Abelson shows how little he understands about how the device industry really works. That doesn't mean the clinic's steps are a bad idea, though. A blanket ban on all conflicts would have severe consequences for device development, but hopefully that's not what will happen. Public disclosure of conflicts, on the other hand, would bring little if any harm to innovation. Public disclosure would give consumers and the media less reason to be suspicious of industry. And perhaps, knowing that their doctor was involved in developing a new treatment could give some patients more confidence in it. As long as this process doesn't turn into a witch-hunt, it could be beneficial.

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