To avoid conflicts of interest, the University of Minnesota has a 19-memberConflict Review Committee that is support to monitor docs and faculty at the university's Academic Health Center, although it boasts a curious twist - at least two members sport ties to drug or device makers.
For instance, there's Scott Crow, a professor in the medical school's psychiatry department, received about $273,000 from various drug companies between 2002 and 2008, according to Minnesota Board of Pharmacy records, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes. Another is David Polly, a nationally known spine surgeon at the university who has come under fire for his consulting relationship with Medtronic.
The disclosure comes as the university mulls a new conflict-of-interest policy that attempts to balance its relationships with business, the paper writes, adding that a draft of the proposed policy, which bans corporate gifts and product endorsements by U faculty and staff, was released last month. A university spokesman tells the paper that having members of a committee with industry ties is "essential. They bring expertise and a keen understanding of the nature of those relationships and steps that can be taken to manage potential conflicts."
Crow received $273,276 in payments from drugmakers Merck, Johnson & Johnson's Ortho-McNeil, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Lilly between 2002 and 2008, according to the paper, which add that, of that amount, $103,468 was for "research and development investigator fees" from Glaxo, while the remaining payments appear to be honoraria for participating in professional meetings. Crow declined to discuss the payments, and when asked if the amount was accurate, Crow said "It could be, I haven't reviewed the records," he tells the paper.
Minnesota is among a handful of states that require drugmaker to publicly post payments to docs, the Star-Tribune reminds us. The Physician Sunshine Payment Act, whic is included in the health care reform bill before Congress, requires drug and device makers to publicly reveal payments to docs. However, the university's proposed conflict of interest of policy does not call for public disclosure of these relationships.
Last year, the Star Tribune revealed that the head of that task force, Leo Furcht, had been disciplined for an ethical lapse in 2004 after secretly steering a $501,000 research grant to his own company. That's when the university decided a new policy was needed.
Photo courtesy of Jerome Kassirer