More Than a Year Later, New AMA Conflicts Policy Still in Works

From the WSJ Health Blog:

For more than a year, the American Medical Association has been drafting a new ethics policy aiming to limit industry influence on continuing education for doctors.

Apparently that’s not enough time.

Early this month, Sen. Herb Kohl sent  a letter to the AMA for a status report. The AMA  wrote back saying it is still at work. The organization’s House of Delegates has rejected two proposals, and its ethics committee will take up the issue again in late August, the group said.

“There is often more than one round of revisions,” AMA Executive Vice President Michael D. Maves wrote. An AMA spokeswoman said the organization didn’t have “anything else to add.”

The  first proposal from the AMA’s ethics committee recommended that doctors and others “must not accept industry funding to support professional education activities.” The reason: “existing mechanisms to manage potential conflicts and influences are not sufficient” to address concerns.

Drug company funding of CME quadrupled between 1998 and 2006 to $1.2 billion, almost half of CME’s total income, according to a 2008 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The sums involved, and examples of doctors’ failures to disclose industry funding, has sparked criticism that patient care is suffering because of skewed financial interests.

The letters were provided by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which Kohl chairs and is holding a hearing today on conflicts in continuing medical education.

Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, has been investigating conflicts of interest in medicine and, with Sen. Charles Grassley, pushing legislation that would require public disclosure of industry gifts and payments to physicians.

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