The effort to limit industry influence on the medical community continues.Partners HealthCare, which owns Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals in Boston, has imposed caps on the amount of money that its senior officials can receive for sitting on the boards of drugmakers and biotechs, The New York Times reports. The limits? No more than $5,000 a day for actual board work (some had been receiving more than $200,000 a year) and stock may no longer be accepted.
The move appears to go further than what other hospitals are instituting and is significant given the research hospitals are affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Although if more academic centers take this step, such efforts may rub up against the insistence by shareholder groups that board members hold stock so their interests are aligned with shareholdes. In any event, how did they arrive at $5,000? You take $500 an hour for a 10-hour day.
“We’re the first to go in this deep, and we’re still into it only up to our knees,” Eugene Braunwald, a Harvard professor and former Partners chief academic officer who chaired the group that wrote the policy, tells the Times. “We thought it was a very good idea to have institutional officials serve on boards, but we did not want to have personal enrichment."
Among the senior officials affected Dennis Ausiello, chief of medicine at Massachusetts General and the Partners chief scientific officer, who serves on Pfizer’s board, the Times notes. He was paid more than $220,000 by Pfizer and Ausiello will continue in both roles. Why? He tells the times that drugmakers are needed to translate academic research into drugs that benefit patients. At Partners, he oversees a research and licensing office that commercializes the hospitals’ intellectual property.
“I’m very proud of my board work,” he tells the Times. “I’m not there to make money. I certainly think I should be compensated fairly and symmetrically with my fellow board members, but if my institutions rule otherwise, as they have, I will continue to serve on the board.”
Ann Bonham, chief scientific officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, says other academic centers were considering restrictions on director pay from zero to $10,000 a day. “They’re all taking this very seriously and moving as quickly as they can,” she tells the Times.
Partners HealthCare is also, by the way, forbidding speaker fees from drugmakers for any employee, including nearly 8,000 with Harvard faculty appointments.
Photo courtesy of Jerome Kassirer