Where did all the disclosures go?
Each afternoon, the sound of bagpipes drifted through Chicago's McCormick Place during this year's Digestive Disease Week.
The idea was for the Chicago Police Department's Pipes & Drums to serve as "pied pipers" to draw attention to the daily drawings for everything from a brand new Kindle to a free pass to next year's DDW plus hotel accommodations, explained Rose Horcher, vice president of client services for the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.
Since attendees had to get stickers from 10 different exhibitors before they could put their entry into the giant gold raffle drum, it seemed to have more to do with drumming up exhibit attendance, but I won't quibble.
The gimmick worked.
Each afternoon, attendees followed the pipers through the exhibit hall, weaving their way round the book stands, past the giant inflated green stomach exhibit and by the instrument table with signs reading "cheap" and "really cheap" scopes. (Yes, they really said that.)
Some attendees struck a more patriotic note, requesting the National Anthem in honor of SEAL Team Six.
As the meeting wore on, I couldn't help but wish for a little assistance from the boys in blue in tracking down which of the very same exhibitors had a hand in the cutting-edge research I was hearing.
Meeting policy required that financial relationships for all individuals with the ability to affect the content of an educational activity be disclosed to the audience.
The financial disclosures were generated by Freeman AV and automatically displayed as the first slide for 6 seconds in the session room before going into the presentation, DDW program manager Crystal Young said in an interview.
I may have been the second to last kid in third grade to learn to tell time properly, but 6 seconds, it was not. Blink and those disclosures were gone.
Even more worrisome was that many of the presentations simply stated that while the lead author had no disclosures, the coauthors did. You just weren't told what they were. A line on the screen stated only: "Please visit www.ddw.org to view all DDW speaker disclosures."
Any journalist worth their salt did just that, but what about the attendees?
Are they really going to go back home and dig up the disclosures before sharing what they've learned with their colleagues? Coauthors have to be looked up individually by their last names since no single search by abstract number is possible.
Disclosing relevant financial relationships upfront provides context for potentially practice-changing presentations. If an author or coauthor is an employee or board member of the study sponsor, physicians should know that. If the analyses were conducted by the device or drug manufacturer, that should be out there, too.
Without it, the Pied Piper has a much better chance of leading us astray.
Ms. WENDLING is the Chicago bureau chief for FAMILY PRACTICE NEWS.