It turns out that the medical device manufacturing community's trade group, AdvaMed, proposed a Code of Ethics for its members in December 2008 which specifically banned all gifts or providing of entertainment to medical care providers.
AdvaMe is short for the Advanced Medical Technology Association, a trade group that claims its members "produce nearly 90 percent of the health care technology purchased annually in the United States and more than 50 percent purchased annually around the world."
Here's what's included in its new Code of Ethics:
An explicit prohibition on providing entertainment or recreation to Health Care Professionals (HCPs). The changes prohibit gifts of any type -- including all non-educational branded promotional items -- regardless of value.This Code of Ethics went into effect July 1, 2009.
Note that the code only applies to "health care providers." Not bloggers or those who maintain online support communities. Which might just have something to do with why a medical device maker is suddenly so interested in us humble bloggers.
Doctors are educated highly-paid professionals who, if anything, we would expect to be less influenced by small gifts and junkets, since they can well afford to spend their own money for such things. But it turns out small gifts have a subtle but very effective impact even on wealthy physicians.
You can read a good summary of research documenting how drug company gifts and junkets affect prescribing information in the following journal article. Follow the footnotes to find the studies summarized:
Do Drug Company Do drug company promotions influence physician behavior? Bob Goodman. West J Med.(BMJ) 2001 April; 174(4): 232–233.
How much more likely are we bloggers to be manipulated by drug and device companies?
Many of us earn very modest incomes or are retired. We make huge sacrifices to find the time and resources to do our health support work for which we are rarely compensated. A couple of boxes of free strips is not a trivial issue for many of us. A plane ticket may be out of reach. I have no doubt that we bloggers are highly ethical people, but the impact of the research suggests that drug and device company techniques work very well to influence ethical people who believe they are not being influenced.
Let's Come Up with Our Own Code of Ethics
In this post, I would like to open discussion to all bloggers, community leaders, and blog readers on the topic of what would be a responsible code of ethics for us NON health care providers who provide health information and health-related support to the online community.
For the purposes of this discussion I will define a new group of Online Health Support Providers (OHSP).
Here are my thoughts:
1. OHSP shall not accept any free or discounted items from any health-care related company that are not simultaneously offered free or discounted to the rest of the online community.
2. OHSP who agree to review a product or service shall review it honestly and shall provide reviews for ALL products or services they accept for review, not just those they can endorse.
3. OHSP who allow advertising on their web pages shall make it clear whether they select and endorse the products advertised on their pages. Because Google Ads are the only advertising vehicle available to most bloggers, bloggers who run Google Ads will indicate on their blog that they do NOT have the ability to control the ads that appear on their pages and that they do not endorse the products appearing in Google Ads. If informed by a blog viewer that an ad (with URL) running on their pages is abusive, OHSP agrees to investigate and if the ad is abusive to block the abusive ad via their Google Ads account.
4. OHSP have the right to report their personal experiences with any health related product or service and to highlight stories in the media or medical press relating to any product or service, however any relationship with the companies who produce these goods and services must be disclosed to readers following the same guidelines as are now required by medical journals. This includes disclosing any personal relationship in the past or present with the companies, including past employment, employment of relatives, or past sponsorships, consultancies, etc. OHSP will disclose any significant holdings in the stock of a company whose products they discuss.
5. OHSP who receive compensation for their blog posts from web sites owned by companies will disclose to their readers that they are paid bloggers and indicate who pays them.
This is just a start. I want to hear your suggestions and Ideas.