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Medicine and Health

Conflict of Interest in the Medical Profession

In medical profession, conflicts of interest occur when the potential of financial or other benefits unduly influence the professional conduct of an individual (Partners Healthcare). Like any other profession, medical professionals also interact with numerous stakeholders who each hold certain rights, thus, it is important for medical professionals to carefully manage conflict of interests.

Physicians are often contacted by drug manufacturers to conduct drug trials on their behalf. Many drug companies are also publicly-listed companies whose stocks’ prices are affected by the market prospects of new drugs and the greater the potential of a drug, the greater may be the impact on stock price. In such scenarios, the physician tasked with drug trial should not purchase the company’s stock or sell if he/she already owns it otherwise he/she will be tempted to report positive findings and hide negative news to increase the prospect of FDA approval as well as stock price appreciation.

Another scenario in which a conflict of interest may occur is when physicians act as marketing agents of drug manufacturers (Lo and Field). If physicians are paid on the basis of patients they prescribe the drug to or the number of presentations they make endorsing a particular drug, they will be less likely to protect the interests of the patients. The potential negligence of duties in such cases may not be making sure that patients are being prescribed the best drug given their particular medical conditions or they are not being exposed to excessive side effects. The third scenario involving conflict of interest may be being involved in the hiring process of new medical professionals at a health facility when one of the applicants is a relative or a friend. In such a case, the individual may favor the friend or relative over a more capable applicant and deny the possibility of optimal care to the future clients of the facility, were the best candidate hired for the position.

References

Lo, Bernard and Marilyn J. Field. “Conflicts of Interest and Medical Practice.” Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice. The National Academies Press, 2009. 171.

Partners Healthcare. Description and Examples of Conflicts of Interest. 7 April 2013 <http://www.partners.org/about/ethics/interactions-with-industry/about-interactions-with-industry/description-of-coi.aspx>.