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Harvard Cleaning Up Conflicts

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, February 03, 2009 10:32 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Conflict-of-Interest, Harvard, Biederman, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Johnson & Johnson

Harvard revising its conflict of interest policies after public embarassment.  

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IMAGE SOURCE: iStockphoto/ sick money/ author: Elnur

All of the unflattering news about doctors and academics at Harvard University’s School of Medicine has done nothing but put a black eye on the prestigious school and teaching hospital, Massachusetts General.

So now Harvard is trying to clean up its act and tighten its conflict-of-interest rules that govern the relationships between doctors and the drug and device industries they sometimes represent.

The gifts given are “unnecessary and distracting and in some ways demeaning to the medical profession,” says Dr. David Korn, to the Boston Globe. He was hired several months ago to oversee Harvard University’s conflict-of-interest policies and the school has convened an ethics committee to review the conflict restrictions, which were revised as recently as 2004.

In fact, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), issued a scorecard on the relationiships between pharmaceutical companies and universities across the country. Harvard received an “F”.

Even Harvard student groups are calling for reform, demanding stricter rules and full accounting from lecturers, faculty, and even visiting professors to disclose how much, if any, they have taken from the company that makes the treatment they are discussing.  

Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, The University of California at Los Angeles and at San Francisco, and the University of Massachusetts, already have adopted policies stricter than Harvards.  

Presently, the medical school does not allow faculty or their family members from having more than $30,000 worth of stock in publicly traded companies and disallows receiving more than $20,000 in consulting fees every year, reports the Boston Globe.  Faculty also cannot hold equity in any company they are researching. 

But Dr. Joseph Biederman, a Harvard psychiatrist, is accused by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) of not disclosing more than $1.6 million in funding he received from the pharmaceutical industry, primarily Johnson & Johnson (J&J), and Eli Lilly.  

Two other Harvard psychiatrists are also undergoing a Senate investigation for violating the rules, which they’ve denied were violated.   

Sen. Grassley is calling for full disclosure of payments from drug and device companies to medical advisory and consultants.  # 


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