AdvaMed Alters Industry Interaction

A new code of ethics goes into effect on January 1, 2004.

By Craig McChesney, Publisher

The Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) recently approved a revised voluntary code of ethics to govern interactions between member medical technology manufacturers and healthcare professionals. The revised code of ethics becomes effective January 1, 2004, and replaces one that is almost 10 years old. The new code bears little resemblance to its predecessor and mirrors many of the ethical changes recently implemented in the pharmaceutical industry under the PhRMA Code.

WHO IS AdvaMed?
AdvaMed is a worldwide association of medical technology firms that began in 1974 as the Health Industry Manufacturers Association (the name change occurred in 2000). To be eligible for membership, companies must manufacture or supply a medical device, component, part or accessory, or a medical information system for sale in the US. Companies are also eligible for membership if they perform research and development in these areas but have not yet begun manufacturing or sales in the US. AdvaMed represents more than 1,100 manufacturers of medical devices, diagnostic products, and information systems; all of these entities combined produce nearly 90% of the $75 billion in healthcare technology products purchased annually in the US, and nearly 50% of the $175 billion purchased around the world annually.

Blair Childs is Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning & Implementation for AdvaMed and has helped in developing and implementing the new code. According to Mr. Childs, in the past few years, there has been a great deal of activity in the area of regulating interactions between healthcare professionals and vendors. The American Medical Association has repeatedly updated its code of ethics regarding gifts from industry to physicians, and the pharmaceutical industry recently implemented its new PhRMA ethical code, albeit under pressure from the government. According to Mr. Childs, the medical technology manufacturers have not been under similar external pressure to revise their code, but have done so because industry wants to continue to maintain a high level of ethical standards.

AdvaMed recognizes that the relationship between physicians and device and diagnostics manufacturers is quite different from that between physicians and pharmaceutical companies. Whereas most of the research for new pharmaceutical products occurs in a lab, the development of new medical devices is often a collaborative process between industry and doctors and requires a high level of interaction, often in the field. The new AdvaMed code reflects this reality and provides for ample interaction while trying to maintain the high ethical standards.

AdvaMed’s new code of ethics is dramatically different from the previous code in its handling of five main subjects: hospitality, travel, gifts, educational conferences, and charitable donations. Each of these is summarized in the Table on page 74 (click here to view the table). The most significant of these changes is the inability of industry representatives to include the spouse of a healthcare professional in industry-sponsored meals, entertainment, or travel (except in conjunction with consulting work, which is silent in this area). Much of the code is still subject to interpretation, such as the requirement that all meals and hospitality be ?modest.? Although champagne and caviar would likely violate this provision, the code does not restrict the dollar amount spent at these functions.

The new code is voluntary and cannot be enforced by either AdvaMed or the government. It is intended to set the standard for conduct of all members of the medical technology industry, and Mr. Childs expects that it will shape behavior for all member companies. If the public perceives the relationship between physician and industry to be corrupted, the code may serve as the template for legislation in which the government will enforce what industry could not.


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