Harvard Medical School Bolsters Conflicts Policy

The financial relationships between the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">drug and <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_medical_devices">medical device industries 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 drug and device makers, and some have even tried to curb the gifts and other perks doctors can receive. In light of the growing controversy, Harvard Medical School, is strengthening its conflicts policy, said Bloomberg News.

The policy, expected to be in place by January, bans Harvard faculty from accepting corporate gifts and meals and restricts staff from speaking engagements for other companies, said Bloomberg News. The policy is “one of the most stringent of any medical college in the country,” said Harvard in an emailed statement, quoted Bloomberg News.

The revisions, developed by a 34-faculty member review committee, were approved by Dean Jeffrey Flier, said Harvard, according to Bloomberg News. In addition to Harvard, Columbia University in New York and Johns Hopkins University’s medical school in Baltimore have increased management of the relationship with companies after news broke of doctors’ financial ties to companies, wrote Bloomberg News. Also, late last year, two of Harvard’s hospital affiliates issued stronger conflict-of-interest guidelines.

“Within and outside industry, many recognize that industry and academia must seek a new model of academia-industry collaboration to achieve greater success at discovery and development of new treatments while fully protecting academic values and those of the medical profession,” Flier said in the statement, quoted Bloomberg News.

The university also implemented a campus-wide conflict of interest policy adopted by its board—often known as the President and Fellows of Harvard College, or the Harvard Corporation—said Bloomberg News, noting that the first-of-its-kind policy covers all faculty members. The policy is meant to serve as a base for other schools to use to develop similar policies.

“We’re living in a period of history when the news media, the general public, and members of Congress and government agencies are very concerned that potential financial conflicts might interfere with the kind of objective exploration and reporting of science that is at the very heart of the academic enterprise,” said Harvard Provost Steven Hyman in the statement on the Harvard website, quoted Bloomberg News.

Earlier this year we wrote that Harvard-affiliated Partners Healthcare 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.

According to The Boston Globe previously, 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, executives and high-level physicians are completely banned from taking company stock as compensation, and doctors are banned from traveling the country as paid members of drug company “speaker’s bureaus.’’

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