Many Med Schools Lacking on Conflict of Interest Policies

February 12, 2008

Although educational organizations have issued strong recommendations regarding institutional conflicts of interest (ICOI), adoption of ICOI policies for institutional financial interests and those of institution officials remain lacking in many medical schools, according to research published in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Although educational organizations have issued strong recommendations regarding institutional conflicts of interest (ICOI), adoption of ICOI policies for institutional financial interests and those of institution officials remain lacking in many medical schools, according to research published in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Susan H. Ehringhaus, of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Washington, D.C., and colleagues analyzed data from a survey sent to the deans -- or their designated proxies -- in all 125 accredited U.S. allopathic medical schools. The survey assessed practices at schools using recommendations from the AAMC and the Association of American Universities.

Representatives from 69 percent of schools responded. Only 38 percent of respondents have adopted an ICOI policy concerning institutional financial interests, but more have created policies concerning officials' financial interests: 71 percent for senior officials, 81 percent for institutional review board members, and 66 percent for governing board members. In most institutions, research responsibility is separated from investment management and technology transfer responsibility.

"It is fair to ask whether it is naive to trust institutions to monitor and discipline their own financial activities, particularly when the financial returns can be substantial," writes David J. Rothman, Ph.D., of Columbia University in New York City, in an editorial. "Will government regulation step in to fill the vacuum?…If the trend to government regulation continues, a follow-up survey by Ehringhaus et al is likely to report markedly different results."

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