April 28, 2008
Group Urges Ban on Medical Giveaways
By GARDINER HARRIS
Drug and medical device companies should be banned from offering free food, gifts, travel and ghost-writing services to doctors, staff members and students in all 129 of the nation’s medical colleges, an influential college association has concluded.
The proposed ban is the result of a two-year effort by the group, the Association of American Medical Colleges, to create a model policy governing interactions between the schools and industry. While schools can ignore the association’s advice, most follow its recommendations.
Rob Restuccia, executive director of the Prescription Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to eliminating conflicts of interest in medicine, said the report would transform medical education.
“Most medical schools do not have strong conflict-of-interest policies, and this report will change that,” Mr. Restuccia said.
The rules would apply only to medical schools, but they could have enormous influence across medicine, said Dr. David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University.
“We’re hoping the example set by academic medical colleges will be contagious,” Dr. Rothman said.
Drug companies spend billions wooing doctors — more than they spend on research or consumer advertising. Medical schools, packed with prominent professors and impressionable trainees, are particularly attractive marketing targets.
So companies have for decades provided faculty and students free food and gifts, offered lucrative consulting arrangements to top-notch teachers and even ghost-wrote research papers for busy professors.
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