Amid increased scrutiny of physicians’ financial ties to the industry, Harvard Medical School revised its conflict-of-interest policy to include bans on faculty members participating in industry speaker bureaus and on faculty receiving personal gifts from industry sources.
Harvard targets conflicts
New faculty policy includes disclosure of interests
The changes resulted from more than a year’s work by a 34-member committee and were accepted by Dean Jeffrey Flier for phasing-in over the course of 2011.
The move by Harvard comes just weeks after the Association of American Medical Colleges released its third and final report on financial conflicts of interest late in June (July 5, p. 6).
The new policy includes a prohibition on research project sponsorship for private companies in which a faculty member holds equity. For public companies, limited sponsorship is allowed if a faculty member’s interest in the firm is not more than $30,000.
Under the revised policy, faculty can still consult for industry; found biotechnology companies; license technology to or from drug, device or biotechnology companies; and serve on advisory boards for these companies.
Disclosure of faculty financial interests will be posted on Harvard’s website, and a $10,000 annual limit has been set on earnings a faculty member may receive from a relevant business.
An existing policy that shields students from drug, device and supply company sales representatives was reinforced, but biomedical company representatives who are invited on campus by faculty or staff are allowed to provide training and education to students on the use of their products.
The revised policy “not only meets the requirements of Harvard’s new university policy on financial conflicts of interest, but also exceeds them in many key areas,” said Harvard University Provost Steven Hyman in a news release. “Dean Flier and his committee have set a terrific example for the rest of Harvard’s schools to consider as they craft their own implementations of the university policy.”
The committee that developed the revisions included faculty members, administrators and students who said they tried to seek a balance that ensured transparency and public confidence, while recognizing that collaboration between the school’s faculty and with industry is “a fundamental part of its mission to facilitate scientific discoveries and clinical translation that will alleviate human suffering caused by disease.”
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