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ASCO Adopts Code for Interactions with Private Sector

Jun 21, 2010

July 2010 Issue: ASCO Adopts Code for Interactions with Private Sector In April, ASCO was among the first organizations to sign the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) Code of Conduct for Interactions with Companies. The voluntary code provides detailed guidance to medical specialty societies on appropriate interactions with for-profit companies in the health care sector and is designed to ensure that societies’ interactions with companies are independent and transparent, and advance medical care for the benefit of patients.

A significant amount of attention in the media and the scientific press recently has focused on the relationships between medical specialty societies and industry. In April 2009, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published reports calling on societies to take additional steps toward transparency and management of conflicts of interest. Though most societies already had their own rigorous conflict of interest policies in place, there was not a single set of ethical standards for society–industry interactions. This changed recently when CMSS, a nonprofit organization representing more than 30 medical specialty societies with an aggregate of more than 650,000 physician members, convened a Task Force of representatives from more than 30 of its member organizations to develop a common code of ethics for industry interactions.

As a member of the CMSS Task Force, ASCO has worked with CMSS for over a year to develop the voluntary code. By following its guidelines, societies can help to protect themselves from potential conflicts of interest. Many member organizations already have rigorous policies in place that meet or exceed some of the principles in the code.

ASCO CEO Allen S. Lichter, MD, served as Chair of the CMSS Task Force on Professionalism and Conflict of Interest, which developed the code.

“For many years, ASCO has been a leader in establishing and enforcing rigorous conflict-of-interest policies for those who participate in our programs. We take very seriously the trust that is placed in us by physicians and patients to be authoritative, independent voices in cancer care,” Dr. Lichter said. “We are proud to be one of the first signers of this code and urge our fellow medical societies to do the same.”

The code includes seven core principles and detailed guidance on implementation. The principles cover the following key areas, among others:
  • Conflicts of interest: Develop and publicly post policies and procedures to disclose and manage conflicts of interest among those who participate in society activities (e.g., medical meetings, clinical practice guidelines, scientific journals). View ASCO’s Conflict of Interest Policy.
  • Financial disclosure: Publicly disclose donations and support received from for-profit companies in the health sector and disclose Board members’ financial and uncompensated relationships with companies. View the Society’s financial disclosures.
  • Independent program development: Develop and make publicly available policies and procedures that ensure that educational programs, advocacy positions, and research grants are developed independent of industry supporters.
  • Independent leadership: Prohibit key society leaders (presidents, CEOs, and editors-in-chief of society journals) from having direct financial relationships with relevant for-profit companies in the health care sector. Most of ASCO’s key leaders have followed this restriction for several years.

The full code and the list of societies who have adopted it thus far are available on the CMSS site.

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