Conflicts of interest involve a risk of professional judgement or behaviour being unduly influenced by a secondary interest. In medicine, this risk may arise if healthcare professionals receive gifts from the pharmaceutical or medtech industry. For this reason, the SAMS issued medical-ethical guidelines on «Collaboration between the medical profession and industry» in 2012. These guidelines are currently being revised.
Gifts from pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers create incentives to employ a medicine or device which would not otherwise have been prescribed or used. Material conflicts of interest may also arise when continuing education events or scientific studies are financed by pharmaceutical companies. Recommendations on «Collaboration between the medical profession and industry» were first published by the SAMS in 2002, focusing on the areas of clinical research; basic and postgraduate medical training and continuing medical education; and acceptance of payments in cash or in kind.
The 2002 recommendations described the appropriate management of conflicts of interest and included guidance on how they can be prevented or mitigated. In 2005, the recommendations were partly revised and reissued as medical-ethical guidelines. At the end of 2012, these were in turn revised, with the addition of a section on consultancy activities.
Various developments which have occurred since the guidelines were last revised in 2012 now call for a comprehensive revision. The guidelines are to be adapted in accordance with the new provisions on the handling of therapeutic products contained in the Ordinance on Integrity and Transparency in the Therapeutic Products Sector (VITH, SR 812.214.31), as well as international recommendations and current industry codes. The applicability of the guidelines is also to be extended: they are no longer addressed exclusively to physicians but also to other healthcare professionals – specifically, nurses. Greater attention will be given to the medtech sector and to the development of professional guidelines. The Central Ethics Committee (CEC) has appointed a broad-based subcommittee to revise the SAMS guidelines.
Members of the subcommittee
Professor Daniel Scheidegger, Arlesheim, SAMS Vice President (Chair)
Dr Werner Bauer, Küsnacht, Postgraduate Training & Continuing Medical Education (SIWF)
Jörg Baumann, Bern, Swiss MedTech (until February 2021)
Professor Thierry Buclin, Lausanne, Clinical Pharmacology
Professor Sophie de Seigneux, Genève, Nephrology
Susanne Gedamke, M.A., Zürich, Schweizerische Patientenorganisation (SPO)
Professor Michele Genoni, Zürich, Surgery
Lic. iur. Jürg Granwehr, lawyer, Zürich, scienceindustries
Dr Christian Rohrmann, Oensingen, General Practice
Lic. iur. Michelle Salathé, MAE, Basel
Dr David Shaw, Basel, Ethics
Lic. iur. Stéphanie Studer Scherl, Genève, Law
Professor Ursula von Mandach, Zürich, Perinatal Pharmacology
MsC Yvonne Willems Cavalli, Bellinzona, President of Swiss Nurses’ Association (SBK)
Guidelines and relevant publications