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Policies On Drug-Firm Gifts Eyed

Policies On Drug-Firm Gifts Eyed [Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.]

From Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) (December 15, 2010)

Dec. 15--The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine earned a grade of B in a report examining medical school policies on drug-company gifts, speaking fees and other potential conflicts of interest.

VCU got a D last year on the report.

The University of Virginia School of Medicine, which got a B last year, also received a B this year on the PharmFree score cards, a project of the American Medical Student Association and the Pew Prescription Project.

Dr. Jerome Strauss, dean of the VCU medical school, said the school has had a comprehensive conflict of interest policy since July 2009.

"We are also much more transparent in our policies, both internally and externally, and that includes posting on a website where everyone can see the relationship faculty have with various industry."

In the 2010 PharmFree report, released today, 140 of the nation’s 152 medical institutions participated. Nineteen schools got an A grade, 60 got a B.

"There is extensive literature that shows conflict of interest can change the way we practice medicine in ways that do not necessarily benefit patients, said Chris Manz, a third-year medical student at Duke University and PharmFree national chairman.

"It can change the source of drugs we use, towards more expensive drugs, towards newer drugs that are not necessarily providing benefit for that extra cost. Conflicts of interest can impact the sort of research we do and the quality of that research."

Medical schools submit information for the evaluation, which looks at 11 areas of potential conflicts of interest. Schools that do not provide updated information get the same grade as the year before.

Virginia medical schools scores for 2008, 2009 and 2010 are:

--Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine: D, D, B.

--Eastern Virginia Medical School: D, D, D.

--University of Virginia School of Medicine: C, B, B.

--Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine: F, F, D.

Stacy R. Purcell, general counsel and compliance officer for Eastern Virginia Medical School, said the school is "in the midst of a comprehensive review of our conflict of interest policies, and we expect the revised policies will take effect in the first quarter of 2011."

"EVMS remains strongly committed to preventing or managing any conflicts of interest in accordance with applicable law and relevant guidelines," Purcell said.

Manz said more schools are taking the issue seriously. On the other hand, they don’t seem to be doing as well in a few of the 11 areas, including clamping down on having sales representatives on campus.

"The evidence is very clear that sales representatives predictively provide marketing information which is not necessarily the same as the evidence-based information that we like to use to base our prescription decisions on. Only two schools have moved to ban sales representatives from their campuses," Manz said.

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Posted: December 2010