Ethical Issues Pertaining to Conflicts of Interest Between Neurologists and the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Industries

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A conflict of interest (COI) exists when a physician's professional responsibilities are compromised by personal or financial relationships. COIs between physicians and the pharmaceutical or medical device industry (Industry) are common. Collaborations with Industry have many potential benefits, but also raise potential ethical pitfalls. Industry-related COIs have widespread influence on medical education, research, and clinical practice, and therefore have profound implications for the integrity of the field of medicine. Full disclosure is an important step toward mitigating COI but does not redress subconscious accompanying biases. I review the spectrum of potential COI faced by physicians, with a focus on the ethics surrounding the relationship between neurologists and Industry. Other financial and nonfinancial COIs that influence neurologists and nonindividual entities, such as academic institutions, medical journals, and professional societies, are also discussed. Solutions ranging from disclosure to avoidance and recusal are briefly considered.

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