Don't Judge All Conflicts of Interest the Same Way

Much has been written today about a New England Journal of Medicine article that nine in 10 doctors accept gifts from drug and device companies. Of course that has prompted more hand-wringing over whether the ties between clinicians and industry are too close. But there is little mention of the benefits of these ties. I can't speak to the drug industry, but yes, ties between doctors and device companies do bring benefits to patients. Device development is necessarily an iterative and collaborative process between doctors and device companies.

April 26, 2007

1 Min Read
Don't Judge All Conflicts of Interest the Same Way

Doctors have to be able to use the device in order for it to work -- and thus there are legitimate reasons to have doctors involved in product design, or serve as consultants, or what have you. The same is not necessarily true for drugs.But as usual, the coverage offers almost no distinction between the drug industry and the device industry, even if doctor-industry ties are much more justified for devices.In fact, the only voice of reason appears buried at the very end of the Bloomberg News piece. All media covering the device industry should understand what Harvard Medical School professor Thomas Stossel has to say, and why he said it [emphasis added]:"The ties between industry and medicine should be encouraged, said Thomas Stossel, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a telephone interview today. About 85 percent of medical progress can be attributed to the work of drug and device companies, while 15 percent stems from public funding.`The corporate involvement in medicine is a natural, evolutionary adaptation to opportunity,' Stossel said. `Products beget more products. They need to be marketed, because doctors need to know they exist. It's a natural, symbiotic relationship.'" Of course these arrangements have potential for abuse. That is why AdvaMed's Code of Ethics exists. But it's time for the media to stop assuming that these arrangements will always lead to abuse.

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