A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

AMSA Rates Academic Medical Centers on Policies related to Pharmaceutical Gifts and other Industry Relationships

AMSA Rates Academic Medical Centers on Policies related to Pharmaceutical Gifts and other Industry Relationships

June 9, 2008

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) has released their second annual "PharmFree Scorecard" evaluating Academic Medical Centers' policies to prevent financial conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry. With the help of the Prescription Project, AMSA evaluated the conflict of interest policies at the 150 U.S. medical schools, looking specifically at the existence and strength of plicies regarding:

  • prohibiting gifts and meals from industry;
  • consulting and speaking relationships;
  • disclosure of financial conflicts;
  • pharmaceutical samples;
  • individuals with financial conflicts participating in purchasing decisions;
  • industry support for educational events (on- and off-campust) and scholarships;
  • access of sales representatives to the institution; and
  • education about conflict of interest as part of the curriculum

Of the 150 schools, 8 received an “A”, 13 a “B”, 3 a “C”, and 18 a “D.” The 54 institutions that are in the process of developing policies received an “I”; 54 others without conflicts of interest policies (or that refused to submit their policies) received an “F.”

So, how did Massachusetts’ AMCs fare? UMass Medical School received an A in recognition of its clear, strong policies, particularly on industry-funded speaking relationships, purchasing and formulary decisions and on-campus education.
Boston University’s School of Medicine earned a B, thanks also to strong policies in general, though AMSA suggested that BU add curriculum addressing conflicts of interest and policies on samples. Tufts University School of Medicine received an I for being in the process of creating conflict of interest policies, and Harvard Medical School, which has no policies aimed at pharmaceutical conflicts of interest scored an F (though Harvard stated that a university-wide review of conflict of interest standards is underway, AMSA could not clarify whether that would address medicine-specific issues).

AMSA’s report illuminates the huge inconsistency in policies among medical schools alone, not to mention hospitals and other health care institutions. It raises question of whether we’ll ever be able to drive out the inappropriate influence of the pharmaceutical industry on medical care by relying on institutional policies, not to mention the fact that those policies leave out private practice providers. What’s the alternative? The Senate has already passed a statewide standard on gifts – Speaker DiMasi has said that the House will take it up soon. Visit the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition’s website for more info.