Harvard Hospitals Set Tough Conflict-of-Interest Policy

Harvard-affiliated Partners Healthcare recently instituted some tough new conflict-of-interest rules for its highest-ranking doctors and executives. Partners Healthcare hospitals include Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospital.

The financial relationships between the medical industry and doctors have caused controversy in recent years. Critics have long held that such relationships create conflicts-of-interest, and could unduly influence everything from research findings to prescribing practices. Over the past several years, states, medical schools, medical societies and other entities have passed regulations requiring doctors to disclose their financial relationships with <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">drug and <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_medical_devices">device makers, and some have even tried to curb the gifts and other perks doctors can receive from medical firm.

According to The Boston Globe, the new rules at Partners Healthcare prohibit high ranking doctors and executives from receiving stock or unlimited fees for sitting on the boards of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Pay for attending outside board meetings is limited to $500 per hour, or $5,000 for a 10 hour board meeting. Executives and high-level physicians are completely banned from taking company stock as compensation. The new policy also bans doctors from traveling the country as paid members of drug company “speaker’s bureaus.’’

The new rules affect 25 vice presidents, clinical department heads, and other top executives who are directors for some of the nation’s leading drug companies, the Globe said. The policy went into effect last Friday.

The new conflict-of-interest policy was announced by Partners Healthcare in the spring, and has been implemented in stages. Other rules include a ban on gifts and free meals from drug and device makers. Free drug samples are also not allowed. Instead, such samples must be provided through a hospital pharmacy or another central mechanism. Sales reps are no longer able to visit staff unless they have “written invitations defining the purpose and terms of visits.”

According to the Boston Globe, the new conflicts policy at Partners Healthcare is similar to what many other teaching hospitals have implemented. However, the rules limiting compensation for sitting on company boards goes further than anything set by similar institution.

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