Medical schools are facing challenges implementing institutional financial conflict-of-interest policies, which could lead to having government policies imposed on them, according to a report and editorial in todays Journal of the American Medical Association written by researchers with the Association of American Medical Colleges and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Surveys were sent to 125 U.S. medical schools between February and December 2006, with 86 responding. Of those that responded to specific questions, only 38% said they have adopted conflict-of-interest policies applicable to the financial interests of the institution as a whole. In comparison, 81% have such policies in place for institutional review board members, 71% have policies for senior officials, 69% for mid-level officials and 66% for governing board members.
The authors noted that the survey was administered four years after the AAMC issued recommendations concerning conflict-of-interest policies and wrote that it is problematic that more schools do not have more comprehensive policies in place.
In the editorial, David Rothman, director of Columbia Universitys Center on Medicine as a Profession, noted that with some $2 billion being generated annually by academic patent-license agreements, academic inaction may lead to government action. At a time when federal research funding is declining and competition for philanthropic gifts is intensifying, universities may not be eager to promulgate policies that would restrict their freedom to maneuver, he wrote. Will government regulation step in to fill the vacuum? Current federal and state interests in industry academy relationships provide reason to believe so. -- by Andis Robeznieks
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