The WSJ Health Blog in its April 10, 2009 posting reported that Parterns Healthcare, which includes Harvard-affiliated Mass General, had issued a report recommending tighter restrictions on industry relationships with its physicians.
The news release by Partners listed key recommendations from its report:
Prohibition of all gifts, including meals and funding for meals, provided directly to staff by industry for their personal use, on a Partners site or off site. This ban also applies to Partners institutions accepting industry gifts for this purpose.
Development of mechanisms to have free drug samples distributed only through the hospital pharmacy or some other centralized system, and not provided directly to or distributed by physicians.
Requiring that industry representatives have written invitations defining the purpose and terms of visits before having access to Partners sites and staff.
Establishment of a process to identify and manage significant financial interests held by physicians in companies that make products they prescribe or use in their practices.
Acceptance of industry funding for educational programs and fellowships only if provided through a centrally pooled institutional President’s Fund at each hospital or approved by a newly-created, Partners-wide Educational Review Board.
Establishment of a robust, tiered approach to evaluate research-related conflicts of interest, including continued prohibition of certain high-risk circumstances.
Adoption of a stricter policy holding certain officials to a higher standard because of their influential positions within the organization.
Strengthened oversight of permitted outside activities, including a ban on faculty participation in industry speakers bureaus, an express prohibition on faculty being listed as authors on papers ghostwritten by others, and a more rigorous internal review process for certain outside activities.
Development of an enhanced infrastructure, including creation of a new Conflict of Interest Review Committee, responsible for education, oversight, and enforcement of Partners policies and practices in regard to industry interactions.
The system plans to adopt revised policies and procedures by October 1, 2009 and acknowledges that a significant training and education program will be necessary during the roll-out of these changes. The 30 page report details the commissions charge, its process, its internal review, external factors and recommendations. The press release link is below.