Seeking Disclosure of Financial Relationships Between Medical Faculty and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers
A Treatment Issues Editorial
The annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America was held in San Francisco during late October of 2001. Eight of 65 total conference sessions specifically addressed HIV issues. These included a plenary talk, a symposium, three early morning "Meet the Professor" sessions, an interactive session and a walking tour of HIV posters. All of these sessions offered continuing education credits and were conducted by experts in the field. A single slide session offered six oral presentations of recent HIV research selected from among poster submissions. One hundred and forty-four HIV-specific posters were presented in five categories.
As the academic sponsor of the continuing medical education (CME) program, Johns Hopkins Medical School requires faculty members to disclose any significant financial relationships with the manufacturers of products discussed during their educational presentations. Faculty self-reported their financial relationships. Poster and slide session presenters were not asked to make this disclosure.
Of 219 faculty members presenting at the conference, 20 addressed HIV-specific topics (two faculty members presented twice resulting in 18 individual experts presenting on HIV issues). Of the eighteen individual HIV experts, six (33%) did not provide disclosure of financial relationships. This compares to 24 (12%) of 199 non-HIV faculty who did not disclose.
Of faculty who responded to the request for disclosure, 36% of non-HIV versus 58% of HIV faculty listed companies with which they had financial ties. The 63 non-HIV faculty who disclosed having financial relationships reported ties to an average of 4.4 different companies; HIV faculty reported relationships with an average of 8.0 companies.
Because of the small number of HIV faculty members relative to the overall faculty and because a large proportion of the HIV faculty did not participate in the disclosure process, conclusions must be general. Four of the six HIV faculty members who failed to disclose were presenters in a single session, which may indicate administrative error.
Recent studies have identified the subtle and pervasive influence that funding sources can have upon the design, conduct and presentation of medical research with commercial ramifications. Disclosure by expert faculty of financial relationships with companies discussed during their presentations has unfortunately become necessary to fully evaluate the content and context of scientific presentations. Conference organizers should routinely attempt to collect and present this information in both print and electronic versions of published abstracts. Faculty members should attempt full and timely compliance with disclosure guidelines.
This article was provided by Gay Men's Health Crisis. It is a part of the publication GMHC Treatment Issues. Visit GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.