March 10th, 2011

Ethics Survey for Doctors

The New York Times

First, do no harm?

For some doctors that may not be the case, at least when money is involved. A new study of thousands of doctors found that just 8 of 10 strongly agreed that they should put patient welfare before their own financial interests. And 4 of 10 did not think they needed to inform their patients about any financial conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical companies.

The study, published this month in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, included results from a survey of nearly 2,000 doctors in the United States and more than 1,000 in the United Kingdom. The report looked at doctors’ feelings on a broad range of ethical issues.

The results made it clear that a fraction of doctors would at least consider putting money before their patients’ best interests. And some did not think their patients deserved full disclosure. Most of the doctors in the study reported having had accepted gifts or free samples from pharmaceutical companies. The authors found that American doctors were slightly more accepting of potential conflicts of interest than their counterparts in Britain.

“They were more likely to believe that business relationships were appropriate, more likely to report actual business relationships with patients and more likely to receive gifts from pharmaceutical companies,” the authors wrote.

But other recent studies have found that while there is still some coziness between doctors and the drug industry, the ties for the most part are diminishing. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine in November for example found that growing scrutiny of conflicts of interests between physicians and drug makers has led to a decrease in financial ties between the two.

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