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ETH-002: Sales of Goods from Physicians’ Offices

 
Sales of Goods from Physicians’ Offices: The Wisconsin Medical Society believes physicians can be of valuable assistance to patients in assessing whether and what products may be of potential benefit to them or complimentary to medical care. The availability of certain products for sale in a physician’s office also can benefit patients by providing convenience and access to quality products. The Society also recognizes that the sale of health related and non-health related products in physician offices presents a potential conflict of interest between the patient’s best interests and the financial interests of the physician, threatens to erode the primary obligation of physicians to serve the interests of their patients, and risks placing undue pressure on the patient or otherwise negatively impacting the patient-physician relationship. The Society cautions physicians to carefully consider the impact of the sale of products in the physician office on the patient-physician relationship and the perception of physicians.

In order to mitigate potential conflicts of interest, to minimize the impact on the patient-physician relationship and to avoid negative impact on how society views physicians, the Society recommends that physicians who sell health related or non-health related products in their offices observe the following guidelines:

  • The best interests of the patient must come before the financial interests of the physician.
  • Any sale of products in a physician office must not place undue pressure on patients.
  • Any sale of products in a physician office must be done in a manner that does not negatively impact the patient-physician relationship or otherwise demean the practice of medicine.
  • The amount charged for any product sold in a physician’s office must be reasonable.
  • Physicians should be wary of exclusive distributorships or physician-labeled products. If such products are sold in physicians’ offices, the physician should disclose any exclusive relationship with a distributor to the patient, and, in the case of private-labeled products, should clearly list ingredients and provide all necessary information related to safety and efficacy in a nonbiased manner.
  • Providing products to patients for free or at cost can reduce or eliminate the potential conflict of interest between the best interests of the patient and the financial interests of the physician.
  • Physicians should not sell any product that claims to have health benefits unless the physician has reviewed the scientific literature and concluded that the claimed benefit is adequately supported.
  • Physicians who sell non-health related products in their office should make clear to patients that such products are not claimed to have a health benefit and the physician is not suggesting or implying that the product is a medical product, is part of medical care or treatment, or recommended by the physician.
  • Physicians who sell any product in their office should disclose to the patient, face-to-face or in writing, any financial interests the physician has in the product, including relationships with manufacturers or distributors, whether products are sold at cost or above cost and if the products (or reasonable equivalents) are available elsewhere. (HOD, 0417)