let the sun shine in…

Posted on Wednesday 24 April 2013

After a long darkness, it seems like we’re getting a few things going the right way lately – successful lawsuits against Pharma’s improprieties, the AllTrials campaign, a growing awareness about the DSM-5 misadventures, more and more encouraging chatter, etc. Here’s some that really feels good – the results from this year’s American Medical Student Association [AMSA] scorecard. For the last 6 years, the organization has been scoring all 158 American Medical Schools based of their policies concerning Conflicts of Interest and their relationships with Industry:

The American Medical Student Association released its 2013 PharmFree Scorecard this month, continuing to pressure and encourage medical schools to improve their policies on conflicts of interest and interactions with industry. These policies have impacts on students’ medical education, the future of the medical profession and the care physicians provide. As patients we should be able to trust that decisions about our care are based on science and our best interests, not the marketing strategies of the pharmaceutical industry…

Highlights of the 2013 AMSA Scorecard:

  • 93 schools [59 percent] now have model polices prohibiting all gifts and on-site meals, up from 19 [12 percent].
  • 79 schools [50 percent] have a curriculum on conflicts of interest, up from 12 [8 percent] in 2008.
  • Schools with model policies on speaking arrangements have grown tremendously; 44 [28 percent] schools ban or severely restrict participation in speaker bureaus compared to 31 [20 percent] in 2011-2 and only 4 [2.5 percent] in 2008.
  • Only 41 schools [26 percent] have a model policy in terms of disclosure, requiring personnel to disclose past and present financial ties with industry [e.g., consulting and speaking agreements, research grants] on a publicly-available website and disclosing these relationships to patients.
  • Policies restricting industry support for Continuing Medical Education are now in place in only 28 schools [18 percent], but this is nearly double the number of schools in 2010.
  • Access by pharmaceutical sales representatives remains a major challenge, with only four schools [2.5 percent] prohibiting sales reps from meeting with faculty and trainees regardless of location, or prohibiting sales reps from marketing their products.
… The 2013 AMSA PharmFree Scorecard, the NPA National Grand Rounds and the Community Catalyst Policy Manual are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin. Partners in the PACME project are AMSA, Community Catalyst, the National Physician’s Alliance, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Any way you look at it, this is a remarkable achievement made all the more impressive by the fact that the changes reflect those made by Medical Students with a very simple intervention – a published survey. It portends an enlightened future generation of doctors and once again reinforces the ending line from Ben Goldacre’s TED Talk, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
    April 24, 2013 | 11:07 PM

    This is encouraging news.

    A few years back the talk was about free pens and coffee mugs…
    I hope we continue to see a focus on consulting, speaking and research grants – the areas where the big bucks are.


    April 26, 2013 | 3:07 PM

    The damage is already — the faculty is indoctrinated by filet mignon of years past. It will take a die-off for the sludge to be cleaned out.

    April 26, 2013 | 4:20 PM

    I’m thinking that exactly ONE researcher being held criminally liable for the damages that a drug does to patients would be sufficient to bring the whole machine to a screaming halt.

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