A front-page article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday highlighted growing concerns from 2014 regarding power morcellators, a tool commonly used in gynecological laparoscopic surgeries to cut up and remove tissue.
In April 2014, federal regulators advised doctors to stop using power morcellator tools for hysterectomies, citing its potential to spread cancer. In July 2014, Johnson & Johnson, the company with the largest market share of power morcellators, pulled its product from hospitals; and in November 2014, the FDA strengthened its April 2014 warning and said doctors shouldn’t use morcellators on most women.
A month after the FDA warning in April, the AAGL—formerly known as the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists— issued a report stating that morcellation “remains safe when performed by experienced, high-volume surgeons.” However, the WSJ article pointed out that the organization’s opinion supporting the use of power morcellator tools was influenced by an executive committee member who had done paid consulting for a manufacturer of power morcellators.
The executive member was New York surgeon Arnold Advincula, who serves as AAGL’s president. AS reported by the WSJ, his 2014 disclosure on Columbia’s website reports he received at least $50,000 for speaking and other services in the prior 12 months from Blue Endo, a morcellator seller.
The published report misleadingly stated that it was approved with “no commercial, proprietary, or financial interest in the product or companies described in the report.” While the minutes reflect that Dr. Advincula did not vote to pass the report, he was involved in the discussion that ultimately approved the report favoring the use of power morcellators.
Reports published by professional organization undoubtedly influence medical professionals and decisions regarding the care they provide patients. A seemingly unbiased report carries different weight than one published by professionals with financial ties to the product. In my opinion, reports published by professional organizations should clearly disclose any financial ties or potential conflict-of-interests of individuals involved in approving the report. I applaud the WSJ for shedding light on the AAGL’s report and conflict-of-interest rules.