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ACP and No Free Lunch: Setting the Record Straight

PHILADELPHIA -- (April 18, 2005) In an ongoing dialogue about physicians' interactions with the pharmaceutical industry, leaders of the American College of Physicians (ACP) met with the head of a nonprofit group, No Free Lunch, during the ACP Annual Session, held April 14-16, 2005, in San Francisco.

ACP (Doctors of Internal Medicine. Doctors for Adults.) is the largest medical-specialty organization and second-largest physician group in the United States. Membership includes more than 116,000 internists, related subspecialists, medical students, residents and fellows. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses in adults.

The No Free Lunch group is committed to not accepting promotional gifts, drug samples or hospitality from drug companies. Its members -- including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists and medical students -- believe pharmaceutical promotions influence physicians' prescribing patterns. Group members take a pledge to not accept any gifts of money, promotional items, drug samples or hospitality from pharmaceutical representatives.

Last week, ACP leaders met with Robert Goodman, MD, the New York internist who founded No Free Lunch. The meeting grew out of the College's decision, made in January after careful consideration, to not grant a request from No Free Lunch to exhibit at this year's Annual Session.

According to John A. Mitas II, MD, FACP, the College's Chief Operating Officer, ACP's decision was made in accordance with College policy regarding media representation and exhibitors. In 2001, Dr. Mitas said, a physician claiming to represent No Free Lunch escorted investigative reporters who had a hidden camera into the Annual Session Exhibit Hall -- in violation of College policy. ACP policy prohibits the use of cameras, as well as interference with exhibitors, in the Exhibit Hall.

"The College welcomes dialogue and representation of different points of view about issues of concern to the medical profession," said Dr. Mitas. "But we also have a responsibility to our members to ensure that all exhibitors agree to terms of engagement on how they will operate on the exhibit floor."

Also during the Annual Session, members of the College's Ethics and Human Rights Committee were among those who presented a session entitled "Ethical Challenges: Physician-Industry Relations -- Maintaining an Appropriate Balance."

"Physicians and their specialty organizations need to have an ongoing assessment of their relationships with industry -- and of the potential impact of those relationships on the independence of clinical judgment," said ACP Regent William E. Golden, MD, FACP, outgoing Chair of the Ethics and Human Rights Committee, who moderated that session.

Dr. Goodman has agreed to meet with ACP's Ethics and Human Rights Committee at their next meeting, at the invitation of Dr. Golden.

The American College of Physicians was founded in 1915 to promote the science and practice of medicine. In 1998 it merged with the American Society of Internal Medicine, which was established in 1956 to study economic aspects of medicine. ACP works to enhance the quality and effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine.

Contact: Allison Ewing, 215-351-2655 or 800-523-1546, ext. 2649, E-mail aewing@acponline.org

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