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Professional Societies and Industry Support: What Is the Quid Pro Quo?

Professional medical societies have become increasingly dependent on pharmaceutical, device, and biotechnology companies for ongoing support of their programs, but the internal influence of this financial largesse on medical societies' practices is well hidden. Many examples exist in which societies' educational products, including clinical practice guidelines and professional publications, have been tainted by involvement by industry-paid individuals. These examples show that professional judgments of organizations can be affected in ways that are not in the best interests of our patients. Society leaders should develop policies that leave critical decisions, especially those that affect patient care, in the hands of members without financial ties to industry. Society leaders should not accept funds designated for specific industry-recommended projects unless such programs are already part of their planned agenda. These leaders, who typically serve for only a year or two, should delve into arrangements that salaried society executives make with industry, and insure that no promises are made that compromise an organization's professional goals. Professional societies should also find ways of reducing the vast, embarrassing industry involvement at their national meetings, especially the vulgar circus-like displays and the drug company-sponsored symposia. We must reduce commercialism and restore professionalism to our medical meetings.

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