Harvard Med School strengthens conflict-of-interest rules

Harvard Medical School has set plans to strengthen conflict-of-interest rules for its doctors and researchers, amid criticism over its existing rules and a U.S. Senate investigation of several of its faculty members questioning their financial relationships with drug and medical devicemakers.

The school's policy, which received a grade of 'F' from the American Medical Student Association, bars faculty or their family members from holding more than $30,000 of stock in public companies or equity in private companies that sponsored their research. Also, faculty and family members cannot receive more than $20,000 in consulting or other fees.

However, the existing rules don't address gifts or meals from drug and medical device companies, both of which have been targets of new restrictions by other academic medical institutions. What's more, it doesn't enforce its existing rules vigorously, according to reports in the Boston Globe.

The school expects to spend about one year reviewing the existing policy. School dean Jeffrey Flier has said that the review is likely to focus on continuing medical education funding, since drug companies currently pay about 13 percent of the cost of several hundred courses sponsored by the school each year.

To learn more about Harvard's plans:
- read this Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report item

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