A Professional Association With a Spine

Ethics boards are responsible for, among other things, keeping an eye out for conflicts of interest, both their own and those of researchers. According to Tri-Council Policy Statement, for example:

Researchers and REB members shall disclose actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest to the REB. REBs should develop mechanisms to address and resolve conflicts of interest.

Presumably, insisting that researchers divulge potential conflicts is easier if other organizations are likewise promoting such transparency. Here’s one professional association that’s helping:

From the Wall Street Journal: Spine Doctors are Adopting Strict Rules on Payments

A medical society representing U.S. spine surgeons has taken the rare step of requiring that researchers disclose not just the existence of financial ties to medical-device companies, but the dollar amounts as well.

The initiative is a response by the North American Spine Society to pressure from lawmakers, prosecutors and lawsuits by companies’ former employees. Prominent surgeons doing research have been found to have significant financial relationships — sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars — with medical-device firms.

Does this new policy have teeth?

The society said its policy “is not a voluntary guideline, but a binding covenant which applies to all relationships engaged in by all participants in all” activities of the spine society. Failure to disclose would be a “sanctionable offense,” the spine society said. Sanctions could include suspension, expulsion or public letters of censure.

Will it help?

As to whether mere disclosure is enough to deal with conflicts of interest, [the society’s ethics-committee chairwoman] said it is at least a first step to ensure “that these things are addressed.”

Thanks to the Bioethics Blog for the story.

~ by Nancy Walton on January 27, 2009.

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