While some critics of the US Preventive Services Task Force made wild and nonspecific charges that members of the task force must have conflicts of interest, a new post on the Hastings Center's Bioethics Forum identifies specific potential conflicts of interest in some of the critics.
Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman MD of Georgetown University Medical Center, and director of PharmedOut.org and Alicia M. Bell, project manager of PharmedOut and member of the board of directors of the National Women's Health Network, write:
"Vague, fact-free, emotionally charged statements are the language of public relations, not scientific discourse. The striking similarities in word choice among these critics could be entirely coincidental. Perhaps the congruence in their conflicts of interest is coincidental as well.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force members are not allowed to have "substantial conflicts of interest, whether financial, professional, or other conflicts, that would impair the scientific integrity of the work of the USPSTF." Organizational or personal conflicts of interest, however, are common among critics.
Donors to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the "nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society", include Hologic, which makes breast imaging products, and Johnson and Johnson, which makes an image-guided breast biopsy product. Donors to the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) Fund for Imaging Innovation include Siemens, GE Healthcare, Phillips, Hologic, and many others that make mammography machines or related products.
According to the American College of Radiology Web site, "the leaders of the ACR and ACRIN have been meeting with industry leaders from key donors to the ACRIN Fund to strengthen the relationships between the organizations and better determine how both parties can maximize this relationship." The Society of Breast Imaging is an organization managed by the American College of Radiology.
The Access to Medical Imaging Coalition is run by Tim Trysla, who works for the Alston and Bird law firm and is counsel to the "largest complex diagnostic imaging manufacturers, physician groups and providers regarding Medicare reimbursement." He directs the "Coalition of Diabetic Providers and Manufacturers opposing Medicare competitive bidding for durable medical equipment." Daniel Kopans holds patents on imaging systems. Robert Schmidt reports receiving royalties from, and being a shareholder in Hologic.
...None of these conflicts of interest have been mentioned in news coverage.
...When critics with conflicts of interest are banned from the argument, the controversy vanishes."