OBJECTIVE: To investigate the nature and extent of financial relationships between leaders of influential professional medical associations in the United States and pharmaceutical and device companies.
DESIGN: Cross sectional study.
SETTING: Professional associations for the 10 costliest disease areas in the US according to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Financial data for association leadership, 2017-19, were obtained from the Open Payments database.
POPULATION: 328 leaders, such as board members, of 10 professional medical associations: American College of Cardiology, Orthopaedic Trauma Association, American Psychiatric Association, Endocrine Society, American College of Rheumatology, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Thoracic Society, North American Spine Society, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and American College of Physicians.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Proportion of leaders with financial ties to industry in the year of leadership, the four years before and the year after board membership, and the nature and extent of these financial relationships.
RESULTS: 235 of 328 leaders (72%) had financial ties to industry. Among 293 leaders who were medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy, 235 (80%) had ties. Total payments for 2017-19 leadership were almost $130m (£103m; €119m), with a median amount for each leader of $31 805 (interquartile range $1157 to $254 272). General payments, including those for consultancy and hospitality, were $24.8m and research payments were $104.6m-predominantly payments to academic institutions with association leaders named as principle investigators. Variation was great among the associations: median amounts varied from $212 for the American Psychiatric Association leaders to $518 000 for the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
CONCLUSIONS: Financial relationships between the leaders of influential US professional medical associations and industry are extensive, although with variation among the associations. The quantum of payments raises questions about independence and integrity, adding weight to calls for policy reform.