A landmark study of medical journal disclosures found that authors failed to report half of their financial relations with industry. Conduced at Columbia University's Center on Medicine as a Profession and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study compared disclosures in journal articles with physician payment data from five orthopedic device companies:
Our findings indicate that current journal disclosure policies do not yield complete or consistent information regarding industry payments. More than half of the articles in our sample failed to acknowledge an authors' relationship to a company.
Omissions, misinterpretations and errors in compliance reporting by a number of physicians have led to provocated investigations and a negative impact on public trust. Now that an increasing number of drug and device companies are disclosing payments to doctors – and with the Physician Payment Sunshine reporting provisions of the new healthcare law taking effect March 31, 2013 – comparing physician disclosures and industry disclosures will be much easier.
It is easy to predict many more such comparisons.
The availability of industry disclosures of physician payments leads to the conclusion that there is "an unpresented opportunity for the medical profession to move to a system of full, verifiable transparency." Many medical organizations "may also take advantage of company disclosure data." Academic medical centers, purchasing bodies, professional medical associations and governmental agencies are now, or soon will be, able to compare physician exhibits with those made by industry.
Physicians are required to provide conflict of interest disclosures to universities, hospitals, journals and medical associations; Many of these disclosures have unique formats and requirements.
Get ready for audits to accompany physician disclosures. Physicians now have two choices: (i) Proactively work to develop a disclosure system that more accurately describes their relationships with industry or (ii) do nothing and live with the very negative consequences that arise from flunking.