Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cleveland Clinic to Host Symposium, Modify Policy on Conflicts of Interest

The Cleveland Clinic has announced major changes in how it handles conflicts of interest. Last year, there was considerable media coverage of alleged conflicts affecting a variety of Clinic leaders (see most recent post here.)

Previously, the Clinic had announced that it will host a symposium on conflict of interest, which "hopes to attract more than 500 leaders in research, medicine, industry, government and bioethics." (See the Cleveland Plain Dealer.)

The Associated Press reported (via the Washington Post) that the Clinic's board of trustees will create a standing committee on conflicts of interest, which will meet regularly with staff. They will also create a data-base covering all people who work for the clinic. They will "require disclosure and competitive bidding if the business of an outside trustee is trying to sell to the clinic." The New York Times added that the "clinic will prevent doctors who have relationships to particular drug or device companies from involvement in the clinic's purchasing decisions about these companies' products."

However, the Times also noted that "the clinic has stopped short of making information about the outside relationships of its doctors and trustees available to patients and others outside of the clinic itself."

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer added some further skepticism, noting that the board was "short on specifics," and noting that David Rothman of the Institute of Medicine as a Profession "wondered how the board's commitment would translate into practice and whether the hospital would, for example, make its database available to patients who want to know if their physicians have stock in certain companies."

I guess these are some signs of progress, although it is disconcerting that the Clinic will not make their conflict of interst database public, nor ban dealing with organizations in which members of the board of directors have a direct financial interest.

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