Amid increased scrutiny of physicians' financial ties to the industry, Harvard Medical School recently revised its conflicts-of-interest policy to include bans on faculty members receiving personal gifts from industry sources and participating in industry speaker bureaus.
Harvard sets conflict-of-interest policies
The changes are the result of 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. Harvard's move comes just weeks after the Association of American Medical Colleges released its third and final report on financial conflicts of interest late in June.
The revised Harvard 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.
Also, 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 can receive from a relevant business.
An existing policy that shields students from drug, device and supply company sales representatives is reinforced, but biomedical company representatives who are invited to campus by faculty or staff are allowed to train and educate 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," Harvard University Provost Steven Hyman, M.D., says 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 say they tried to seek a balance that ensures transparency and public confidence while recognizing that collaboration between the school's faculty and industry professionals is "a fundamental part" of the school's mission to "facilitate scientific discoveries and clinical translation that will alleviate human suffering caused by disease.”
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