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Guiding Principles for Membership Interactions with Industry

Patients rely on us to provide the best patient care possible independent from the undue influence of the medical device and pharmaceutical industries (PhRMA). Our patients and the public expect objectivity minimizing both actual and perceived industry conflicts of interest (COI).

The AUA has adopted policies that are in compliance with the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS). This COI policy dictates the appropriate industry interactions at all levels of our professional society, this includes research, clinical activity and educational presentations at any venue. In addition, the Journal of Urology® has specific publication policies governing transparency in disclosure, industry conflicts and author participation.

The purpose of this review is to outline areas where the AUA membership is exposed to potential COI and to provide clarification in these areas.

General Membership Industry Interactions

Appropriate and professional physician and industry interactions can and do improve the quality of patient care, research, and education; it is also possible that appropriate interactions can lead to a decrease the cost of health care and can enhance the public trust in science and medicine. Policies to protect the public and establish appropriate and professional interactions continue to evolve. At present, the medical profession is in a period of establishing stricter regulations and enhanced monitoring of both physicians and PhRMA from both within our respective professional organizations, also from within academic institutions and the government. While these regulations vary by state and institution, the direction is one that generally limits interactions that could result in either the actual or perceived improper influence on physician decisions. As a member of the AUA it is important to be aware of these policy changes and seek to manage COI. The degree of public confidence that we are managing COI effectively, that we are decreasing the risk of interactions which could unduly influence patient care will enhance our professional reputation and our patients' trust.

  1. Compensation: Receiving gifts and direct payment for entertainment are obviously inappropriate as they have been shown to significantly influence subsequent behavior. Direct compensation, consulting fees and advisory board participants should be reimbursed at fair market value. Professional speakers should not have any encumbrance regarding content; educational content should be free from outside modification or manipulation and conform to the standards of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. Even non-CME industry sponsored events should provide for unbiased and unmanipulated content.
  2. Pharmaceutical samples: Pharmaceutical samples should never be sold, used by clinicians, clinical staff, or given to family and friends. AUA members are encouraged to develop methods for securing, monitoring and documenting patient usage and side effects.
  3. Patient Consent and Confidentiality: While industry representatives may be permitted to attend clinical patient encounters in the clinic or operating room, it should be limited to those circumstances where industry presence is of substantial benefit to the patient care and treatment with the industry associated product. Their attendance and role should be fully disclosed to the patient prior to their presence, and patient confidentiality must be ensured.
  4. Non-FDA Approved Treatments: Counseling patients to participate in industry-sponsored non- FDA approved treatments, particularly when occurring outside of one's geographic practice, i.e. in another country, requires that AUA members provide both accurate informed consent and disclosure of any and all compensation agreements. Fee splitting is illegal and unethical. If the urologist was reimbursed for providing treatment outside one's geographic area, then there should be no charge for follow-up care after the patient returns home.

    See additional April 2008 AUANews article entitled "Payment for Providing Services Outside the Country."

  5. Research Studies: Participation in industry-supported drug or device studies should involve evaluation and approval of the study by an institutional research review board (IRB). Funding should be paid to an institution or individual practice. A properly executed research informed consent should always be part of an industry supported research project.

Providing full and fair disclosure to patients and to colleagues is the key to responsible and effective management of actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

AUA Board of Directors, Fall 2010

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