Drug Firms Fund AMA Ethics Campaign

From Associated Press

The American Medical Assn. is spending $1 million to tell doctors not to accept big gifts from drug companies--in an education campaign funded mostly by drug companies.

Critics expressed amazement about the AMA’s use of industry funding.

“Whoever is making decisions over there seems to be just brain-dead,” Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of the consumer-oriented Public Citizen Health Research Group, said Wednesday. “This is just prostitution.”

The AMA said a spokesman was not immediately available. The association adopted a policy in 1991 against doctors’ accepting cash or gifts “of substantial value” from drug companies. Those include free trips and hotel accommodations for doctors attending conferences.


“Any gifts accepted by physicians individually should primarily entail a benefit to patients and should not be of substantial value,” the policy says. Things such as work-related pens and note pads are considered acceptable.

Big gifts “may create the perception of unethical behavior,” and evidence suggests “that many members of our professional communities may be unaware” of the guidelines, Dr. Richard Corlin, AMA president, said in a letter to doctors and medical groups.

The campaign includes brochures, a new AMA Web site on gift guidelines and an ethics book for doctors and industry representatives.

The AMA is contributing a little more than $400,000 to the campaign, but the balance is coming in payments of $50,000 to $100,000 each from nine major drug companies listed in the letter.

“How can anyone believe that they’re engaging in some kind of campaign to fight the perception of unethical behavior by engaging in unethical behavior?” Wolfe asked.