(Originally posted on the National Physicians Alliance blog, July 24, 2011)
I suppose I should not be surprised, but there is a new organization that opposes the current movement to separate physicians from pharmaceutical (PhRMA) and medical device industry money. While many of us feel that these medical industries have too much influence on physicians, the Association of Clinical Researchers and Educators (ACRE) apparently feels that these worries are exaggerated and that industry money is necessary to promote medical device and medication innovation. In its recent meeting, ACRE positioned itself as doing important and necessary work that would not have been done without industry funding and engaged a patient panel (including at least one celebrity) to support their position. Reviewing ACRE's website, the group takes issue with what they call the "anti-industry movement" and calls on lawmakers to find new ways to enhance researcher and physician ties with industry.
Interestingly, I could not find any information on ACRE's website describing who funds the group. This creates doubts in the group's authenticity. This blog post provides some additional background on ACRE, and describes the positions taken in the past by one of the group's leaders.
According to the ProPublica Dollars for Docs database, it appears that ACRE's leadership has received over $125,000 as personal payment for services provided to PhRMA and medical device makers. This number does not include any research support they might have received from industry. Is it possible that this financial support could affect these physicians' perspectives on this issue?
In the meantime, keep an eye on the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (pdf) that was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed last year. This law will require disclosure of any physician gifts greater than $100 in a year and will make public any payments (including research support) provided to physicians from PhRMA and medical device makers. It will be interesting how this disclosure affects physician/industry connections, and what actions organizations such as ACRE might take to delay or weaken the law.
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