There is a long tradition of collaboration between medical professionals and industry. This is essentially in the interests of good healthcare and contributes to medical progress. At the same time, it may lead to conflicts of interest. With its guidelines «Collaboration of the medical profession with industry», the SAMS describes the appropriate way to manage these conflicts and proposes measures to reduce them.
Recommendations on the topic were first elaborated by the SAMS in 2002 and reissued as guidelines in 2005 and 2013. Various legal and societal developments have necessitated the updating of the document published in August 2022.
Background and scope of application
The revised guidelines take account of recent developments in this area: new provisions on the handling of therapeutic products contained in the Ordinance on Integrity and Transparency in the Therapeutic Products Sector (TPITO, SR 812.214.31), as well as international recommendations and current industry codes.
The document covers for the first time virtual events, sales of advertising space, stand rental, and product and procedure training events, and also dealing with topics such as start-ups, spin-offs and licensing agreements. The applicability of the guidelines is also to be extended: they are no longer addressed exclusively to physicians but also to other healthcare professionals.
Need for transparency and new funding models
In the view of the SAMS, transparency is indispensable if the credibility of medical professionals and the trust placed in them is to be maintained. For this reason, the guidelines recommend to disclose vested interests and pecuniary benefits. Transparency should not, however, lead to health professionals being pilloried because figures were taken out of context and wrongly interpreted.
Physicians are accustomed to their continuing education events being sponsored by industry; indeed, no financial contributions are systematically provided either by cantons or hospitals – in contrast to events for nursing and other health professions. The absence of other possible sources of funding makes it all the more concerning that the medical profession should be criticised for its close links with industry. For a new, sustainable solution, political support will also be required.
Finally, it should be noted that guidelines can never offer solutions for every individual case. In practice, all parties are to apply and comply with the spirit of the guidelines to the best of their ability.
You can find all the medical-ethical guidelines published by the SAMS in the Publications menu.