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Voluntary Ethics Code Set for Medical Organizations

Thirteen of 32 member societies have already adopted guidelines, group says

WEDNESDAY, April 21, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- A new voluntary ethics code for how medical organizations should interact with private companies was released Wednesday by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS).

"Physicians and patients count on medical societies to be authoritative, independent voices in science and medicine," Dr. Allen Lichter, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and chair of the CMSS Task Force on Professionalism and Conflict of Interest that developed the code, said in a news release.

"By adopting this code, [medical] societies demonstrate their commitment to the highest level of ethical standards in their activities and to providing the best possible care for patients and populations," Lichter said.

The code calls for disclosure of conflict of interest by those who take part in society activities such as medical meetings, clinical practice guidelines and medical journals. It also calls for disclosure of donations and support received from private companies and disclosure of society board members' financial and other relationships with companies.

Societies should develop educational programs, advocacy positions, and research grants independently of private companies. Medical society leaders (such as presidents, CEOs and editors-in-chief of society journals) should have no direct financial relationships with relevant health-care companies.

"The private sector plays a central role in developing new treatments and medical advances, and medical societies collaborate with industry in many ways that benefit medical practice. We developed this code to ensure that those relationships are appropriate, and to ensure public confidence in our objectivity and commitment to high-quality care," Dr. Norman Kahn, executive vice president and CEO of CMSS, said in the news release.

The CMSS includes 32 leading medical societies with a collective membership of more than 650,000 physicians. So far, 13 member societies have formally adopted the new code, while others plan to adopt it over the coming months. Some member societies already have policies in place that meet or exceed some of the principles in the new code of ethics, according to the CMSS.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about the new voluntary ethics code.

SOURCE: Council of Medical Specialty Societies, news release, April 21, 2010
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