SAGES perspective: professional medical associations, commercial interests, and conflicts of interest

Phillip Shadduck, Patricia Sylla, Erin Schwarz, Caroline Reinke, Peter Denk, Shelley Ginsberg, Horacio Asbun, Aurora Pryor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Professional medical associations (PMAs) have an essential role in advancing medical care and health. PMAs promote skills training, clinical standards, and other important educational activities. Most often, PMAs are not-for-profit entities that rely upon funding from industry to help cover the costs of these valuable activities. Equally important, innovation and progress in surgery require physician collaboration with industry throughout the product development process. SAGES has opined that, with appropriate Conflict of Interest (COI) disclosure and management processes, PMA educational activities can be both scientifically and ethically sound. Methods: SAGES has developed and implemented comprehensive and stringent processes for managing potential COI within the organization, at the annual meeting, and in developing educational offerings. This document reviews the SAGES COI processes and results 2009–2021. Results: Implementation of the SAGES COI disclosure and management processes reduced the reported perceived incidence of bias at the annual meeting from 4.4–6.2% (2008–2010) to 1.2–2.2% (2011–2013). Recent comparison of reported disclosures revealed a rise in number of speakers with financial relationships and an increase in reporting of disclosures in presentations without an associated increase in need for conflict resolution by the COI committee. Despite good overall adherence to COI policies, SAGES was recently cited for non-compliance with ACCME standards related to inclusion of faculty with ownership interest. This experience highlighted the potential for discordance in the interpretation of whether disclosures relate to specific CME content. SAGES COI processes have since been updated to reflect the more stringent 2020 ACCME Standards that exclude speakers and planners with ownership interest from any CME activity. Conclusions: The SAGES experience with disclosure and mitigation of financial relationships highlights the challenges of validating the accuracy of physician disclosures and establishing the relevance of financial relationships to the content of accredited educational activities. SAGES will continue to streamline its COI disclosure process with specific focus on aligning all financial disclosures among the various reporting platforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2517-2527
Number of pages11
JournalSurgical Endoscopy and Other Interventional Techniques
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • Bias
  • Conflict of interest
  • Disclosure
  • Ethics
  • Open payments
  • Professional medical association


Dive into the research topics of 'SAGES perspective: professional medical associations, commercial interests, and conflicts of interest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this