Specialty societies' code targets conflicts of interest

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Medical society journals must ban ghostwritten articles and cannot place ads for drugs next to editorial content discussing those products or their makers under a sweeping ethics code signed by several major medical societies.

The Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) Code for Interactions With Companies aims to “reinforce the core principles that help us maintain actual and perceived independence” by tackling potential industry-society conflicts of interest on charitable contributions and corporate sponsorships, meetings and events, CME, research grants, clinical practice guidelines and society journals. The code represents a year's worth of work by a CMSS task force including representatives of more than 30 member organizations. Thirteen societies have signed so far, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Cardiology and the American College of Physicians.

Among other things, the code bars heads of societies and editors-in-chief of society journals from having direct financial relationships during their terms of service. Societies must adhere to the ACCME's Standards for Commercial Support and use written agreements with companies for educational grants, as well as corporate sponsorships, charitable contributions, business transactions and support of research grants. They must disclose industry support publicly – at a minimum, educational grants, corporate sponsorships, charitable contributions and support of research grants.

Signatories must make “reasonable efforts” to secure multiple corporate sponsors for sponsored items or programs. They must allow only exhibitor giveaways that are “educational and modest in value” and cannot place exhibitor booths on the path to sessions. They are required to disallow commercial supporters from influencing manuscripts coming out of grant-funded research and must apply a one year “look-back” period to disclosures for authors' conflicts of interest in journal articles.

As for enforcement, societies participating are encouraged to regularly evaluate their adherence and to certify annually to CMSS that they are in compliance with the code. “Any comments received by CMSS relating to a society's adherence to the code will be referred to the society,” said the code.
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