MMS Ethics Forum: Partners’ Conflict of Interest Policy is an Evolving Process
Calling relations between industry and academic medicine “essential to our mission of translating scientific advances into improved health care,” Eugene Braunwald, M.D., explained the latest conflict-of-interest (COI) policies at Partners Healthcare System at Thursday’s MMS Ethics Forum.
Dr. Braunwald is a world-renowned cardiologist, Harvard professor, and faculty dean for academic programs at Partners.
Here’s a summary of several Partners COI guidelines. Those who willfully violate them receive warnings and then face dismissal for further lapses, Dr. Braunwald said.
- All gifts to Partners physicians are prohibited, including meals, unless the meals occur in the course of non-marketing business activities
- Free drug samples will be distributed to patients through a centralized outlet. Physicians will not be permitted to keep drug samples received from industry reps
- All visits by industry representatives must be preceded by a written invitation specifying the purpose and duration of the visit
- Partners is developing a process to monitor financial interests held by physicians in companies that make products the physician prescribes or uses in clinical practice
- In any industry-sponsored educational program or fellowship, there must be more than one sponsor, and no single sponsor can contribute more than 70 percent of the funding
- All Partners faculty are barred from participating in industry-sponsored “speakers’ bureaus” and from “ghostwriting” for industry
- “Institutional officials” at Partners (e.g., presidents, senior VPs, and department chairs) may not receive more than $5,000 a day for work with an outside board of directors that does business with Partners and they may have no equity stake in such companies.
Dr. Braunwald noted that these policies represent a “series of compromises” that were often “challenging to reach consensus on.”
Asked by the outgoing MMS President, Mario Motta, M.D., whether the tightened rules were hurting efforts to recruit physicians and researchers, Dr. Braunwald said, “Yes, but most all academic centers are changing their COI rules.” He did concede that he’s heard “some grouching” from Partners faculty about the changes.