Drug and device makers shouldn't be allowed to offer freebies - including meals, gifts, travel and ghost-writing helps - to docs, staffers and students in any or all 129 of the nation’s medical colleges, according toa new report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, which spents two years on the project.
"Over recent decades, medical schools and teaching hospitals have become increasingly dependent on industy support of their core educational missions," the report states. "This reliance raises concerns because such support, including gifts, can influence the objectivity and integrity of academic teaching, learning a nd practice, thereby calling into question the commitment of academia and industry together to promote the public's interest by fostering the most cost-effective, evidence-based medical care possible."
Rob Restuccia, executive director of the Prescription Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to eliminating conflicts of interest in medicine, tells The New York Times the report would transform medical education. “Most medical schools do not have strong conflict-of-interest policies, and this report will change that,” he says. And David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, tells the paper that "we’re hoping the example set by academic medical colleges will be contagious."
Among the recommendations - creating centralized systems for accepting samples or “alternative ways to manage" sample distribution; schools should audit independently accredited CME seminars given by faculty to detect “inappropriate influence.” And it said the rules should apply to faculty even when off-duty or away from school; and discourage faculty participation in speakers' bureaus.
But industry has some objections. The report was released by a 30-member task force, which was headed by former Merck ceo Roy Vagelos, mostly included medical school execs, but there were also Medtronic ceo Art Collins and ceo's from three drugmakers - Pfizer's Jeff Kindler, Amgen's Kevin Sharer, and Sid Taurel, who until this month was Lilly's former ceo. That trio stopped short of endorsing the complete report.
In letters attached to the report, Amgen lobbyist David Beier wrote "we have a different view about the accuracy concerning representations about the motives of the participants in industry-academic interactions." And in a joint letter, Kindler and Taurel wrote they disagree that faculty be discouraged from participating in speakers' bureaus: "We continue to believe that these types of programs, which are subject to clear regulations regarding their content, can be worthwhile educational activities."
“The outcome of this for the industry is that those companies that are strong in science will always be welcome at medical colleges and others won’t,” Vagelos tells the Times, adding that the recommendations will likely face resistance among faculty who like things as they are.