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Many Doctors Still Don't Disclose Consulting Fees
Date:10/7/2009

Potential for conflict of interest in recommending products to patients, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Despite regulations requiring orthopedic doctors to disclose financial interests in products and consulting fees from device makers, about 30 percent fail to do so, a new study shows.

Disclosure of payments to doctors by device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies has been hotly debated for many years. Recently, most medical journals and professional societies have instituted policies mandating disclosure of possible conflicts of interest, but the problem persists, experts say.

"In a high-tech field like orthopedics, surgeon relationships with industry are common," said lead researcher Dr. Mininder Kocher, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

These relationships help advance innovation and can benefit patients, especially as federal dollars for research are decreasing, Kocher said.

"The disadvantage is the suppression of negative results and restriction of investigators," he said. "There is also a risk to the doctor-patient relationship of trust."

Kocher thinks that doctors should disclose any financial relationship they have with companies to journals, professional organizations, the public and to patients.

"Right now, the norm is self-disclosure," Kocher said. "There are problems with self-disclosure. Sometimes physicians intentionally do not self-disclose, other times it's confusing."

The solution is to mandate that all medical device companies make public who they give money and gifts to, Kocher said.

The report is published in the Oct. 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, Kocher's team looked at reports of payments made to doctors by five makers of replacement hip and knee joints. The disclosure of these payments was part of a settlement with
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