Show Me the Money

Courtesy of NIOSH (creative commons license)

Courtesy of NIOSH (creative commons license)

From the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC)/Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) joint meeting in Washington:

Much is made about the need to be open with regard to investigator conflicts of interest and study funding these days but how it’s handled in individual situations varies widely.  EGMN writers see a wide range of approaches to the issue of finacial relationships at the meetings that we cover, which can make our jobs very easy or a lot harder.  The EGMN policy is that we include a statement of a presenter’s potential conflicts of interest and study funding in our stories.  These relationships may have no effect on the data presented but we believe that readers need this information to evaluate a study.

At some meetings, like those of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, presenters must include a statement of their potential conflicts of interest and the media staff provide a PDF list of these at the annual meeting.  At other meetings, like the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology that I recently covered, conflicts of interest are scarcely ever included.  I spent a lot of time tracking this information down from investigators to include in the stories that I wrote.

At most U.S. meetings, presenters include their disclosures in one slide that they don’t read and that goes by too quickly to really copy it down.  If I never hear the old gem about not having any conflicts of interest “much to my wife’s disappointment,” or the ubiquitous psychiatric quip that they are “multiply conflicted,” that will be OK with me. 

After covering a few sessions today at the ICAAC/IDSA meeting, I decided that these groups must have a very lax policy on the topic of financial disclosures.  In most of the presentations, this information was simply missing.  One or two investigators did include their conflicts, though I wondered if this might simply be a result of their institution’s policies.

So back in the press room, I asked the ICAAC PR staff if there was a list of these.  Granted, the young man and woman that I asked were junior staff, but I was a little suprised when they told me that they had never been asked about conflicts of interest.  It seemed a novel and amusing idea to them.  I tried to explain to them that most medical meetings require some disclosure from presenters and that it is our policy to include this information in our stories.  They took my email address and assured me that they would find out if there was some listing of conflicts of interest but I suspect that I’ll be tracking this information down on my own again.

—Kerri Wachter

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Filed under Infectious Diseases, Practice Trends

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