Should Docs Disclose Drug Company Ties?

Hospitals around the country are pushing for full disclosure of their doctors' financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry to help patients determine whether their doctors are making money from drug and device companies.

The Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation's leading medical centers, will announce this week its decision to fully disclose all of its doctors' and scientists' financial ties with pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers on its Web site, www.clevelandclinic.org.

"Over time, it came to our attention that we did not want patients to be concerned that we were making decisions on the basis of something other than what was in their ultimate best interest," said Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. "Since many of us have relationships with industry to help foster new and improved products and drugs, we thought we could eliminate potential conflicts of interest by being absolutely transparent about those issues."

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"One hundred percent of our 1,800 physicians gave us disclosures, and we have gone back and checked with them to make sure all are correct."

Although doctors' ties to the pharmaceutical industry all too often remain a secret, there has been a push in recent years toward public disclosure of this information.

Many experts are lauding the clinic for leading the way in full disclosure, arguing that doctors' treatment decisions may be influenced by the sizable sums of money provided to them by pharmaceutical and device companies in the form of speaking and consulting fees, drug royalties and equities.

"I commend my Cleveland neighbors for their bold and necessary actions," said Dr. Peter Whitehouse, professor of neurology at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "A key issue will be helping patients understand what these relationships mean for their care and for society."

"The souls of medicine and universities, not just individual doctors, are at stake."

Many doctors, too, support the move.

"I have no problems with any of us reporting [or] declaring our relationships, and I do so willingly," said Dr. Daniel Hayes, clinical director of the Breast Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. "It builds trust among our colleagues [in relation to] research and our patients for us to be transparent."

Other Medical Centers Following Suit

This move by the Cleveland Clinic follows a barrage of sharp criticism of the medical center in recent years for the many financial ties between its doctors and the pharmaceutical industry.

Now, its disclosure may serve as an example for other medical centers to follow.

ABCNews.com asked medical centers whether they planned to make disclosures about their doctors' financial ties.

Of the centers that responded, only the University of Wisconsin and Duke University appear to be taking measures to avoid conflicts of interest that are comparable to what Cleveland Clinic is doing.

Medical Centers Disclose Financial Ties

The University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health is now planning to adopt a policy of public disclosure in which signs posted in the medical center will state that some of their physicians receive outside compensation from various sources, and that the companies and amounts will be available to patients on a public Web site.

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