In the wake of a Senate investigation that has ensnared two of its professors, Columbia University is updating its financial conflict of interest policy to meet new, stricter federal regulations, and to create a policy consistent across all of its schools, according toThe Columbia Spectator, the student newspaper.
"The draft policy pending before the University Senate is an effort to harmonize University policies, particularly in light of the increasing emphasis on interdisciplinary and cross-campus collaborations,' according to a university statement given the paper. "The draft policy, like the current policies, helps preserve the integrity of research by assuring appropriate relationships with commercial entities for the benefit of researchers, the University, and the public."
The move comes shortly after the US Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Special Committee on Aging sent letters to Columbia about the university's relationship with the Cardiovascular Research Foundation. Two docs at the university's Medical School are tied to the foundation - Martin Leon previously served as chairman, and Gregg Stone is currently the chairman. The committees want financial disclosures, and details of university relationships with medical device makers (back story).
"We are focused on making sure this is widely discussed,” Sharyn O’Halloran, a professor at the School of International and Public Affairs and chair of the External Relations and Research Policy committee, which is overseeing the issue and will hold a pair of town hall meetings. "The purpose of the town halls is to inform the people, to gauge support, highlight any limitations, and find out how we can evaluate the effectiveness of this policy moving forward."
Various universities are under Senate investigation for allegedly failing to properly monitor academic researchers who simultaneously receive NIH grants and payments from drugmakers for consulting, speaking or research. Both committees have also sponsored legislation that calls for drug and device makers to disclose payments to docs.