A Healthy Blog

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

Harvard Medical School Joins the Gift Ban & Disclosure Club

Harvard Medical School Joins the Gift Ban & Disclosure Club

July 22, 2010

The Globe reports today that Harvard Medical School (HMS) has approved new conflict-of-interest rules.  In doing so, HMS joins the growing list of top medical schools and teaching hospitals that are enacting strict conflict-of-interest policies in an effort to protect doctors from being turned into (or even being seen as) marketing agents for the drug and device industry.  In the Boston area ,UMass Memorial Medical Center adopted new conflict-of-interest rules in 2008; Partners HealthCare did so in 2009; and Boston University School of Medicine is currently revising its own, already strong, conflict policy.

HMS’s new policy forbids its 11,000 faculty from accepting personal gifts, meals, or travel and from giving promotional talks for drug and medical device companies.  It also includes strong disclosure requirements: it mandates public reporting on a HMS website when faculty receive payments over $5,000 from drug and device companies for consulting of working on boards.

Although the HMS is not the first to implement such rules, Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic Foundation, explained to the Globe that Harvard’s new policy “will influence others” to revise their own policies because it “is a closely watched institution.”   Policies like those at HMS are clearly the way of the future and Massachusetts should support its institutions through its laws.  We should not take a step backwards  in healthcare reform by repealing the Commonwealth’s historic gift ban and disclosure law.

- Rosemary B. Guiltinan