Medical societies establish new policy for industry influence

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The Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) has released the CMSS Code for Interactions with Companies, which provides detailed guidance to medical specialty societies on appropriate interactions with for-profit companies in the healthcare sector.

The voluntary code is designed to ensure that societies’ interactions with companies are independent and transparent, and advance medical care for the benefit of patients and populations. CMSS represents 32 leading medical professional societies, with a collective membership of more than 650,000 U.S. physicians.

“Physicians and patients count on medical societies to be authoritative, independent voices in science and medicine,” said Allen Lichter, MD, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and chair of the CMSS Task Force on professionalism and conflict of interest, which developed the code. “By adopting this code, 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.”

The code includes seven core principles and detailed guidance on implementation. The principles cover the following areas:

  • 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).
  • Financial Disclosure: Publicly disclose donations received from for-profit companies in the healthcare sector, and disclose board members’ financial and uncompensated relationships with companies.
  • 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 society leaders (presidents, CEOs and editors-in-chief of society journals) from having direct financial relationships with relevant for-profit companies in the healthcare sector.

The CMSS code was developed by a 30-member task force consisting of the leaders of member societies. As of press time, 13 medical societies had formally adopted the code and committed to fully implementing it. Others plan to adopt it over the coming months, and many members already have policies in place that meet or exceed some of the principles in the code, according to the council.

Among the medical societies who have adopted the policy are: American College of Cardiology, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Radiology and American Society for Radiation Oncology.

The full code, and the list of signers who have adopted it thus far, are available on the CMSS website at