Commentary: Conflict of Interest Policies: An Opportunity for the Medical Profession to Take the Lead

Lo, Bernard MD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181c46e96

Articles in this issue by Steinman and colleagues, Dubovsky and colleagues, and Camilleri and Parke illustrate how academic health centers (AHCs) and professional membership organizations can take the lead in improving conflict of interest (COI) policies. In this commentary, the strategies explored in these articles are examined in the context of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, “Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice,” issued in April 2009. The author applauds the empirical research, educational efforts, and guidelines development described in the three articles and relates them to specific recommendations in the IOM report. Important issues that deserve attention are making disclosure of financial relationships more specific and less burdensome, developing a model for continuing medical education that provides high-quality education without undue influence, addressing institutional conflicts of interest, and honoring the educational mission. The author concludes that these articles show that physician leaders, AHCs, and professional societies can continue to take the lead by developing, implementing, enforcing, evaluating, and improving thoughtful and effective COI policies.

Author Information

Dr. Lo is professor of medicine and director, Program in Medical Ethics, Division of General Internal Medicine, and Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Editor's Note: This is a commentary on Steinman MA, Boscardin CK, Aguayo L, Baron RB. Commercial influence and learner-perceived bias in continuing medical education. Acad Med. 2010;85:74–79; Camilleri M, Parke II DW. Perspective: Conflict of interest and professional organizations: considerations and recommendations. Acad Med. 2010;85:85–91; and Dubovsky SL, Kaye DL, Pristach CA, DelRegno P, Pessar L, Stiles K. Can academic departments maintain industry relationships while promoting physician professionalism? Acad Med. 2010;85:68–73.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Lo, UCSF Program in Medical Ethics, 521 Parnassus Avenue, Suite C-126, San Francisco, CA 94143-0903; e-mail:

© 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges