Senator Grassley Seeking More Info From Med Schools on Financial Conflicts of Interest

Senator Chuck Grassley recently announced he has asked 23 medical schools for information about conflicts of interest policies and requirements for disclosure of financial relationships between faculty and the <"">drug industry. The 23 institutions were asked—after not responding to a prior request, which was made to 149 schools—by the American Medical Student Association for the same information. In the initial response, the 23 schools reportedly replied either “no response” or “decline to submit policies.”

“There’s a lot of skepticism about financial relationships between doctors and drug companies,” Grassley said. “Disclosure of those ties would help to build confidence that there’s nothing to hide. Requiring disclosure is a common sense reform based on the public dollars and public trust at stake in medical training, medical research and the practice of medicine,” Grassley added.

Grassley has been working for uniform, universal disclosure of money pharmaceutical, medical device, and biologic companies give physicians and has conducted extensive oversight of financial relationships, especially among doctors who conduct research with the $24 billion awarded yearly in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. Institutions receiving these funds must track financial relationships; however, according to Grassley, there have been violations or lax enforcement.

Grassley, a Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, sponsored reform legislation to require payments from the drug industry to be publicly reported; Senator Herb Kohl co-sponsored the “Physician Payments Sunshine Act.” The Act will require drug, medical device, and biologics companies to publicly report certain payments made to doctors.

Grassley’s letter, which requires a July 15 response, indicated that the recently enacted stimulus bill, gave the NIH an additional $10 billion to fund research grants. Grassley also outlined a number of examples of conflicts:

: Chairman of psychiatry failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars received from a pharmaceutical company while researching that company’s drugs with an NIH grant. The Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) is now investigating.

Stanford: Chairman of psychiatry received an NIH grant to study a drug while partially owning a company seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of that drug. He was later removed from the grant.

Harvard: Three professors failed to report almost a million dollars each in outside income while heading up several NIH grants. Harvard plans to release a report and is working to update its conflict of interest policies.

University of Wisconsin: Chair of orthopedic surgery reported taking over $20,000 from a company annually, for five years. The actual amount was around $19 million. The university is revising its rules.

University of Texas: Professor received an NIH grant to study Paxil in kids while giving dozens of promotional talks on Paxil. The matter has been referred to the HHS OIG

University of Washington in St. Louis: Professor, formerly at Walter Reed Army Hospital, failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars received from a device company to develop their products.

National Public Radio (NPR): Host of an NPR show received over a million dollars from pharmaceutical companies to give promotional talks. The now-cancelled show received funding from the NIH.

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