OK, Dean Cerra - What's the Excuse for Footdragging now?
Harvard Medical School will prohibit its 11,000 faculty from giving promotional talks for drug and medical device makers and accepting personal gifts, travel, or meals, under a new policy intended partly to guard against companies' use of Harvard's prestige to market their products.
The conflict-of-interest rules also place stricter limits on the income faculty can earn from companies for consulting, joining boards, and other work; require public reporting of payments of at least $5,000 on a medical school website; and promise more robust internal reporting and monitoring of these relationships.
The new rules, which will be phased in after Jan. 1, are designed to keep doctors from becoming -- or being perceived as -- marketing agents for industry, said Dr. Robert Mayer, cochairman of the committee that wrote the new policy. "We're anxious to be viewed publicly as doing what's in the best interest of our patients,'' he said. The school wants to "ensure credibility even more than we do today.''
Harvard officials met with Grassley's staff yesterday to describe the new rules. "Greater disclosure is a foundation for more accountability,'' Grassley said in a statement afterward. Noting that his staff had found "significant discrepancies'' in faculty reporting of payments from drug companies, he said the Harvard policy "will be effective if it is followed by timely implementation and meaningful enforcement.''
Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic Foundation and an outspoken advocate of tougher restrictions on doctors' relationships with industry, said the Harvard policy is similar to rules some other top medical schools and teaching hospitals are adopting. But because Harvard "is a closely watched institution,'' he said, it "will influence others'' to revise their rules.
Harvard's policy is stricter than conflict-of-interest rules at other top medical schools in some respects. For example, Harvard faculty members cannot earn more than $10,000 annually from a company whose product or technology they are investigating in clinical research, half the previous income limit. Few other medical schools have placed hard and fast limits on faculty earnings from industry.
Harvard administrators would not comment on whether the new rules, had they been in place, would have prevented the public run-in with Grassley. He has accused Dr. Joseph Biederman, a well-known Mass. General child psychiatrist and a leading advocate of diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder in children, of failing to make timely disclosures to Harvard of more than $1.5 million that drug companies paid him in consulting and speaking fees.
Biederman has said in statements and letters to the Globe that he complied with conflict-of-interest and disclosure rules. Harvard's investigation into the matter is not completed, the school said. But Flier and Mayer said that there has been general confusion among faculty over what they must disclose, and this policy will help clarify what is expected. Faculty will have to complete online education courses on conflict-of-interest rules before filing their annual disclosure forms, and Harvard will conduct random internal audits.
"The devil is in the details and we had not specified the details,'' Mayer said.
Once again the weary negligence in the Medical School and the AHC on this matter should be obvious by looking at what is going on in the outside world...
For some background on the situation at the University of Minnesota, please see a post on the Periodic Table:
For a particularly telling picture of the foot dragging that has been going on, please see the post of nearly a year ago:
I was going to put a link up to the culturally insensitive song by Peggy Lee: Manana, but thought better of it. Ciao, Frank.