NEJM Commends New Conflict of Interest Proposal

Editorialist says comprehensive recommendations could significantly impact practices, institutions
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- A new proposal to control conflict of interest is notable for its breadth and variety of recommended solutions, according to a Perspective article published online April 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Robert Steinbrook, M.D., a national correspondent for the Journal, reviewed and critiqued an April 2009 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) containing recommendations to reduce conflicts of interest in medical research, education and practice.

According to Steinbrook, the report's authors are concerned that the primary interest of promoting and protecting the integrity of research, the welfare of patients, and the quality of medical education may be compromised by the secondary interests of financial gain, professional advancement, and recognition for personal achievement. He also cited their concern that government regulation may be more likely if medical institutions do not voluntarily improve their conflict of interest policies and procedures.

"Although specific recommendations may be criticized as either too strong or too weak, the IOM's overall proposals are comprehensive and -- if adopted -- would most likely have substantial effects on individual physicians and medical institutions," the author concludes. "There has been no shortage of previous reports and calls for change; the new report lists 16 of the 'more prominent reports' that were released between 2001 and 2008 alone. So the institute's proposals could merely provide more fodder for discussion -- or perhaps mark a turning point in controlling conflicts of interest in medicine."

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