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The erosion of doctors’ ethics

The erosion of doctors’ ethics

“Practice guidelines” are the protocols organized by university physicians and used by most doctors to treat patients. It’s not quite cookbook medicine (which is based on a one-size-fits-all recipe for treating illnesses), but it’s something like that. In today’s society of a-pill-for-every-time-and-place, drugs are undoubtedly going to play a prominent role in many practice guidelines.

So now comes the question: If a physician has financial ties to a drug company, should he be giving recommendations as to which drug to use for treating a particular disease? A new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that 59 percent of doctors said they had ties to pharmaceutical companies whose drugs were considered in the drafting of the practice guidelines they wrote.

The doctors didn’t seem to find anything wrong with that, and most replied that their practice guidelines were not affected by a financial connection with the company whose drug they were recommending. (Well, naturally, he is above that sort of thing.)

Only 7 percent thought the drug relationship affected their own guideline recommendations, although 19 percent thought such ties influenced their co-authors’ recommendations. (“I’m clean, but you had better watch the old Doc over there”)

But studies paint a different picture. The JAMA report concluded: “The findings suggest drug company connections could have compromised the doctors’ ability to create objective guidelines that served patients’ best interests.”


“Relationships Between Authors of Clinical Practice Guidelines and the Pharmaceutical Industry,” JAMA 2002; 287: 612-617

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