Tomorrow professional medical societies will be looking long and hard at how they disclose industry ties in response to an article published this evening by ProPublica (and co-published in USA Today) entitled: "Financial Ties Bind Medical Societies To Drug and Device Makers." The investigative reporting by Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber examines the medical conference trade and the associated funding sources, focusing on the Heart Rhythm Society 2011 meeting underway in San Francisco. The report includes an interactive graphic, and slideshow of "promotional opportunities" available for purchase from the Heart Rhythm Society. The authors also organized the responses of 33 other prominent medical societies to an inquiry of Senator Charles Grassley's regarding funds they receive from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. There is much for the public to learn here.
But what should not go un-noticed, however, is the Heart Rhythm Society's willingness to "bear all" about their practices. In fact, they answered, head-on, questions posed to them by the ProPublica reporters. In this respect, they should be commended for pulling back the curtain on the sources of funding for these scientific sessions and their operations.
It will be interesting to see if other medical societies are as forthcoming as the Heart Rhythm Society has been. What is clear is that as dollars get tighter and tighter for health care, the scrutiny of these practices and their potential to influence doctors will only continue to intensify.