Senate committee probes ACC affiliation with CRF, industry

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Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., has sent a letter to the president of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) requesting information about the group's recently announced five-year partnership with the Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF).

The New York City-based CRF, a nonprofit foundation, will jointly sponsor the i2 Summit for interventional cardiologists to be held concurrently with the annual ACC convention in Orlando, Fla., March 29-31.

Kohl, who is chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, sent a letter of inquiry about the association’s financial ties to the medical device industry for possible conflict of interest. A committee spokesperson told Cardiovascular Business News that the letter is part of an ongoing 15-month inquiry process, spearheaded by Kohl and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to make details of the relationships between medical associations and industry transparent.

“While no one person is a target, questions have been raised—some by ACC’s own members—about this specific relationship,” the spokesperson said.

Noting that the foundation receives funding from a variety of medical device manufacturers, Kohl wrote to ACC President Douglas Weaver, MD, in a July 22 letter that “the potential for this partnership to influence clinical practice raises questions concerning the continued impartiality of your organization.” CRF counts Medtronic and Boston Scientific as sponsors of its annual conference, Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT).

The spokesperson said that they have asked ACC to specifically define their relationship with CRF. The ACC responded by letter within the last month, and the committee is currently analyzing its response. The college has also briefed Grassley and other members of the Senate and House about this matter, he noted.

The committee spokesperson added that after ACC’s briefing, legislators “may still have questions, and whether there are other letters forthcoming, in addition to ours, I can’t say for sure right now.” He could not state with certainty that if Grassley’s office or other committee members would follow-up with additional letters. However, “I wouldn’t completely rule it out.”

He also noted that to his knowledge, the relationship between the ACC and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI), which jointly sponsored ACC’s i2 Summit for its Scientific Sessions in late March of this year, was not probed by the Committee. 

“Since last May, we have delved very deeply into conflicts of interests, consultant payments and ethics issues, involving academic drug detailing, free drug samples, as well as the Justice department’s criminal review of payments made to certain surgeons and physicians,” said the Senate Special Committee spokesperson. He added that the Committee is trying to reduce these conflicts, and lend more transparency into the systems that govern them.