Conflict of Interest Between Professionalmedical Societies and Industry: A Crosssectional Case Study

Abstract:

Objective

To describe how Italian medical societiesinteract with pharmaceutical and medical deviceindustries through an analysis of the informationavailable on their websites.

Design & Setting

Cross sectional study in Italy

Participants

154 medical societies registered withthe Italian Federation of Medical-Scientific Societies.

Main outcome measures

Indicators of industry sponsorship—presence of industry sponsorship in theprogramme of the last medical societies’ annual conference, presence of manufacturers’ logos on the homepage and presence of industry sponsorship ofsatellite symposia during the last annual conference.

Results

131 Italian medical societies wereconsidered. Of these, 4.6% had an ethical codecovering relationships with industry on their websites,while 45.6% had a statute that mentioned the issue ofconflict of interest and 6.1% published the annualfinancial report. With regard to industry sponsorship,64.9% received private sponsorship for their lastconference, 29.0% had manufacturers’ logos on theirwebpage, while 35.9% had industry-sponsored satellitesymposia at their last conference. The presence of anethical code on the societies’ websites was associatedwith both an increased risk of industry sponsorship ofthe last conference (relative risk (RR) 1.22, 95% CIs1.01 to 1.48 after adjustment) and of conferences and/or satellite symposia (RR 1.22, 95% CIs 1.02 to 1.48after adjustment) but not with the presence ofmanufacturers’ logos on the websites (RR 1.79, 95%CIs 0.66 to 4.82 after adjustment). No association wasobserved with the other indicators of governance andtransparency.

Conclusions

This survey shows that industrysponsorship of Italian medical societies’ conferences iscommon, while the presence of a structured regulatorysystem is not. Disclosure of the amount of industryfunding to medical societies is scarce. The level oftransparency therefore needs to be improved and thewhole relationship between medical societies andindustry should be further disciplined in order to avoid any potential for conflict of interest.

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