Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First Reactions to University of Minnesota

New Academic Health Center

Conflict of Interest Policy

Kudos to MPR's Alex Friedrich, another fine journalist who spent time at the Pioneer Press, for getting informed reaction to the U's much hyped new policy.

From On Campus:

Last week when the University of Minnesota released the revised conflict-of-interest policy for its medical staff, I wrote a summary of it and looked at some criticisms of the old policy.

... officials from two organizations that look at such policies — The Pew Charitable Trusts and the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) — have given me an initial idea of what they think looks strong and weak.

Both gave credit to the U for revamping its policy, and they saw definite improvements. Still, they found some policies vaguely worded, leading them to wonder whether faculty and industry reps will have a little too much ethical wiggle room.

“Sometimes policy wording is very nice, but when you see the nitty-gritty of how it’s applied, things aren’t what they seem,” said Tim Anderson, director of AMSA’s scorecard for conflict-of-interest policies. “Many policies are couched in legal language, but the best policies are the ones that are clear and straight forward.”

Allan Coukell, Director, Medical Safety Portfolio, The Pew Charitable Trusts:

What he likes: Disclosure. He applauded the requirement that staffers publicly disclose to patients what financial relationships they have with the drugs or devices they prescribe.

What he’s wary about: Industry-sponsored medical talks. He didn’t find any absolute prohibition on faculty giving talks that involve some sort of payment.

“That’s not what we’d consider a strong policy,” he said. “It’s not consistent with the Association of American Medical Colleges’ recommendation that companies don’t pay for travel to industry-sponsored events. Our longstanding position has been that (faculty) ought not to be paid speakers involved in promoting a product. And it’s not clear to me that this policy would have that effect.”

He pointed to the University of California – San Francisco, which does not allow its faculty to participate in speakers’ bureaus.

Tim Anderson, AMSA scorecard director:

The food-and-gift policy.

The outright ban on ghostwriting.

The policy on consulting.

Then again: Freebies don’t appear to be completely restricted. “Through the use of food and gifts, marketing reps have time with physicians and students. It’s a marketing approach — and not a substitute for unbiased education.”

So will the changes be enough to bump up the provisional C grade of the U’s old policy? Anderson said the new scorecard will reveal all when it comes out late this year.

[My guess is a B.]


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