16: The sunshine act: Shedding light on the inaccuracy of financial disclosures


      We aimed to describe concordance between individuals’ financial disclosures listed in the abstract book from the 41st Annual Society of Gynecologic Surgeons (SGS) Scientific Meeting compared to physician payments reported to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS) Open Payments database for the same year. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires publicly traded companies to report all transactions with physicians. SGS author abstract instructions state that authors should disclose conflicts “whether or not this relationship is directly related to the material being presented.”

      Materials and Methods

      We identified authors and board members responsible for the content of the 41st SGS Scientific Meeting as listed in the published abstract book. We excluded all non-physicians and anyone from outside the United States. We collected financial conflicts using the CMS Open Payments database from 2014 ( Company names, number of transactions, amount paid, and payment types were recorded. Companies listed for each individual in CMS were compared to abstract book disclosures to determine the disclosure rate. For individuals with more than one abstract, disclosures were summed across abstracts and compared in total to the CMS report and checked for concordance. Two authors reviewed each non-disclosed CMS listing to determine whether the company and its product line were related to the content of the abstract. Listing was deemed relevant if consensus was reached between the two reviewers.


      The abstracts and disclosures of 335 individuals meeting inclusion criteria were reviewed. Board members without abstracts did not have separate conflict of interest disclosures listed. Two hundred nine of 335 (62%) individuals had financial transactions reported in CMS. Twenty-four of 335 (7.2%) individuals listed specific companies with their abstracts; 5 of those 24 authors accurately included all of their companies listed in CMS. The total amount of money from CMS transactions equaled $1.98 million: 71.6% labeled “general transactions,” 28.3% “research transactions,” and 0.1% “investments.” The total of all non-disclosed transactions equaled $1.3 million. The range of money associated with a single individual was from $11.72 to $405,903.36. One hundred twenty-two companies were listed as having financial ties with authors in CMS, ranging from 1 to 22 companies per individual. Medtronic (33.5%), American Medical Systems Inc. (30%), and Astellas Pharma Inc. (29%) were the companies most often affiliated with individuals in CMS. Of the 187 without any abstract disclosures but with CMS transactions, the majority (65%) had at least one company listed in CMS that was determined to be related to the subject of their abstract.


      Voluntary disclosure of financial relationships with publicly traded companies was poor, and the majority of unlisted disclosures in the abstract book were companies related to the subject of the abstract. Part of this discrepancy may be due to physicians’ unfamiliarity of what is reported to CMS. Regardless, better transparency is needed by individuals responsible for the content presented at scientific meetings.