Concerns over conflicts of interest between pharmacy and medicine have caused several medical schools to kick drugmakers and marketers off their grounds. However, it seems medical societies still welcome promotional and financial opportunities, according to a report from ProPublica.
The online investigative news site examined the Heart Rhythm Society, whose more than 5,000 members include cardiologists who treat abnormal heart rhythms. Yet, nearly half of the society's $16 million budget last year came from makers of devices and drugs that treat arrhythmias, like Medtronic and St. Jude Medical, notes ProPublica. In addition, 12 of its 18 board members are paid speakers or consultants for such companies.
Society officials maintain that financial ties to the medical device industry do not buy influence, but are vital to developing new cardiac procedures. Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic and an expert on the impact of industry money, disagrees and says such industry funding "has a not very subtle effect on medicine."
Others sharing Nissen's view want to impose firmer limits on industry financial support, especially in markets like heart rhythm disorders where billions of dollars are at stake. One implantable cardioverter defibrillator can carry a hefty $30,000 price tag, according to ProPublica. And just one electrophysiologist can implant dozens a year.
Although still willingly accepting support from medical device and drugmakers, the Heart Rhythm Society is enhancing it's disclosure of such relationships by instituting a new formal policy that requires more detailed reporting of board members' industry ties.