Orthopedic doctors resist disclosing consulting fees

While medical journals and professional societies generally require doctors to disclose possible conflicts of interest--such as payments from medical devicemakers or pharmaceutical companies--some doctors are still reluctant to come clean. That's particularly so in the case of orthopedic physicians, whose relationships with devicemakers are particularly tight due to the high-tech nature of their jobs, according to a new research study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

To conduct the study, a team of researchers, led by Brigham & Women's Hospital associate professor of orthopedic surgery Dr. Mininder Kocher, looked at reports made of payments given to doctors by five companies making replacement hip and knee joints. These disclosures were part of a settlement agreed upon by several devicemakers with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The researchers compared these reports with the number of physicians giving presentations at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, where a total of 344 doctors presenting papers had received industry payments.

Dr. Kocher's team concluded that nearly 30 percent of doctors didn't disclose direct financial arrangements with the devicemakers in the settlement, and that 50 percent didn't disclose payments indirectly related to their presentations. However, doctors getting $10,000 or more were more likely to disclose.

To learn more about the study:
- read this HealthDay News piece

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