Conflicts of Interest at Plastic Surgery Conferences: Disclosure of its Extent and Nature
Grace Ha, BS, Rachel Gray, BS, Neil Tanna, MBA, MD, Armen K. Kasabian, MD.
Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, Northwell Health, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine, New Hyde Park, NY, USA.
BACKGROUND: Relationships between physicians and industry are helpful for both research funding and the advancement of new ideas, however they pose the risk for potential conflicts of interest (COI). The Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2010 established the open payments database to report the payments to health care providers by biomedical companies to encourage transparency into potential COIs. However, industry relationships can still have profound impacts on research funding, topics, and outcomes. Little research has been done regarding the role of biomedical companies at medical conferences. This study seeks to evaluate the role of industry at conferences by comparing the amount of payments received by speakers at the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), and the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgeons (ASRM) annual conferences with that of an average plastic surgeon. This study also compares the amount of money contributed by different companies to assess for the largest contributors.
METHODS: General payments received by physicians who were speakers at the 2017 ASAPS, ASPS, and ASRM conferences were collected from the open payments. Speakers included those listed on the conference programs as chair, instructor, lecturer, moderator, panelist, and presenter. Mean payments received at each conference were calculated and t-tests evaluated differences between the conferences and the average plastic surgeon. An ANOVA tested for differences in payments across conferences. The total amount of payments made by each company was also collected through the Open Payments Database, and z tests identified which companies paid significantly more than the others.
RESULTS: The mean (and median) general payments made to conference speakers at ASAPS (n=75), ASPS (n=249), and ASRM (n=121) were $75,577 ($861), $27,562 ($1,021), and $16,725 ($652), respectively. These mean and median payments made to speakers were significantly different (p<0.001 for all) from those of the average plastic surgeon ($4,441 and $327), but not significantly different from each other (p =0.20). Allergan contributed significantly more than other companies to speakers at ASPS and ASAPS, while LifeCell Corporation, Zimmer Biomet Holdings, and Axogen contributed significantly more to speakers at ASRM.
CONCLUSIONS: Payments to physicians at ASAPS, ASPS, and ASRM were significantly higher than those of an average plastic surgeon. Additionally, certain companies paid significantly more than their peers at each conference. Given these findings, speakers should strive to make clear the extent and nature of their conflicts of interest when presenting at conferences.
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