The University of Iowa’s Caver College of Medicine has one of the country’s strictest conflict of interest policies limiting industry-related gifts, meals, drug samples and payments for things like travel, according to a new industry report.
The Institute on Medicine as a Profession has released a new study comparing changes in schools’ conflict of interest policies from 2008 to 2011. The report reveals that most U.S. medical schools have made some strides, but still lag behind national standards.
Only 16 percent – including the UI – met standards in at least half of the 12 areas studied. No school met all the standards, according to the report published in the October issue of Academic Medicine.
The new report comes in response to an earlier study showing few medical schools have policies regulating conflicts even though research has shown industry ties can bias doctor decisions and compromise patient care. Schools have tried to better manage physician ties to the pharmaceutical and device industries, according to the report, but most programs still have less-than-stringent policies.
The top five medical schools that come closest to meeting national standards include UI Carver College of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Boston University School of Medicine and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine.
Schools with the weakest policies include Saint Louis University School of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Weill Cornell Medical College, University of Nebraska College of Medicine and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
Areas under the conflict-of-interest umbrella that were reviewed for the recent study include gifts, meals, vendors, samples, purchasing, travel, consulting, scholarships and ghostwriting.
When the group’s research began in 2008, “no policy” was the most common finding in many of the areas, according to an institute news release. By 2011, nearly all the schools had addressed that, with just 2 percent reporting having no policies.
Still, the portion of schools with strong policies barely crept up, prompting officials to urge further improvement across the board.
David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession, said in a news release that the findings should urge medical schools to “take bolder steps to rid medicine of industry influence and preserve public trust.”
In an effort to keep medical schools accountable for their conflict of interest policies, the institute recently launched a conflict of interest policy database, housing medical school policies nationwide.
Iowa earned a “stringent” policy rating in every category except in the categories of continuing medical education, speaking engagements and scholarships.
“We essentially have a 100 percent compliance rate, so it’s very clear that everyone here is committed to openness and transparency,” said Deborah Thoman, UI assistant vice president for compliance and accreditation.
View the UI’s policy.