Med schools get smarter about conflicts of interest

The University of South Dakota, Des Moines College of Osteopathic Medicine in Iowa and Tufts University School of Medicine in Massachusetts all rank among the nation's most improved medical schools for conflict-of-interest policy implementation--each improving from D-grade policies to A-grade policies--according to the 2010 American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard released this week. Overall, the report card shows that 79 of 152 medical schools (52 percent) received either an A or B grade for their handling of pharmaceutical industry interactions with both faculty and students. 

"With all of the compelling data about how marketing influences even the best-intentioned physicians, it is gratifying to see that medical schools are taking the necessary steps toward practicing evidence-based medicine, which translates into better patient care," John Brockman, ASMA national president, said in a statement. 

While 19 schools received As and 60 received Bs, 26 schools received Fs, according to AMSA, with 12 of those 26 either not submitting policies or not responding to requests for policies. The PharmFree project initially began in 2002, according to NPR's health blog Shots, with implementation of the report card occurring in 2007. 

"Conflict of interest is now becoming a mainstream concept," Duke University medical student Chris Manz told NPR. "[When PharmFree first began] it was hardly on the radar for medical schools, and now half the schools have strong policies." 

Among the survey's other highlights: 

  • Two medical schools--the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and Florida State University College of Medicine--received perfect scores for "limiting access of sales reps."
  • The University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine raised its grade from an F to a C.
  • Roughly a third of medical schools now are teaching their students to understand institutional conflict-of-interest policies and to recognize the impact industry promotion and marketing can have on clinical judgment. 

For more:
- here's the report card
- read the AMSA press release
- check out the NPR Shots blog post