Conflict of interest conundrums
Julian Sheather, BMA ethics manager, answers some questions on situations you might find yourself in.
It is widely recognised that the drug industry does have a role to play in some forms of training for health professionals. The question is how to ensure that this benefit can be realised without potential conflicts of interest—perceived or real—undermining trust in the profession.
In its guidance, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) sets out stringent guidelines in relation to conferences and meetings. The critical issues are purpose and proportionality: the conference has to have a legitimate educational purpose and levels of subsistence must not be disproportionate to the purposes of the meeting.
In addition to ensuring that the conference meets these criteria, doctors also need to ensure that they are aware of the possibility that conflicts of interest might arise, and ensure that any prescribing decisions are made on the basis of an assessment of the best clinical interests of patients.
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