AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. January 2005, Volume 7, Number 1.

Module 6

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Case 6.3: Office Sales—Supplemental Income

Option Assessment

A.  

Telling Dr. Yueh that he cannot support the sale of the supplement is preferable. According to the Code in Opinion 8.063, "Sale of Health-Related Products from Physicians' Offices": "Physicians... should not sell any health-related products whose claims of benefit lack scientific validity...[and] should rely on peer-reviewed literature and other unbiased scientific sources." Whether or not the benefits of this supplement have scientifically valid support remains unclear. Further, there is reason to suspect that the one completed study is biased because it is funded exclusively by the manufacturer.

B.  

Telling Dr. Yueh that he will agree to sell the supplement for a month should be avoided. It violates Code Opinion 8.063, "Sale of Health-Related Products from Physicians' Offices": "Physicians...should not sell any health-related products whose claims of benefit lack scientific validity." Moreover, Opinion 8.063 goes on, "Physicians may distribute other health-related products to their patients free of charge or at cost...." Selling any product for substantial profit puts Dr. Troy in a position of financial conflict of interest that may compromise his independent medical judgment.

C.  

Telling Dr. Yueh that he will agree to sell the supplement from the office at wholesale cost should be avoided, even though there will be no financial conflict of interest. The clinical study does not meet the requirements of Opinion 8.063, "Sale of Health-Related Products from Physicians' Offices": "Physicians...should not sell any health-related products whose claims of benefit lack scientific validity...[and] should rely on peer-reviewed literature and other unbiased scientifice sources." There is reason to believe the available studies are biased, and there are no means for determining whether the claims of benefit are scientifically valid.

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