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Medical Specialty Societies Endorse New Ethics Code

Intent is to curb perceived and actual conflicts of interest.

In April 2010, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies released its new ethics code that builds upon prior commercial support ethics codes. The Council consists of 32 medical societies and organizations and represents over 650,000 physician specialists. Member organizations include the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Physicians, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The panel that drafted the code was headed by Allen Lichter, MD, the Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of ASCO. Fourteen groups in the council, including ASCO and the College of Physicians, have already adopted the code and most of the remaining organizations state that they intend to adopt the code by the end of 2010.

The key points in the updated ethics code include the prohibition of commercial support for developing clinical practice guidelines, restrictions on consulting arrangements and compensation, and the discontinuation of "giveaways" with company logos or information at conferences and during sales calls. One of the most controversial elements of the code requires top organizational leaders and top editors of their journals to have no consulting arrangements or commercial ties to industry. This makes sense, as the potential for commercial influence on organizational and publication decisions exists when leaders and editors have sideline deals and arrangements with industry. Removing the possibility of commercial influence is the only way that assures the public and other healthcare providers that no conflict of interest exists.