The UC Davis School of Medicine, an institution renowned for its education and research, can now add a different kind of recognition to its long list of achievements.
The American Medical Student Association recently conducted a ranking of medical schools based on their policies regarding free gifts from pharmaceutical companies. UC Davis was one of only seven schools nationwide who received a grade of “A” – meaning the school has a comprehensive policy that restricts pharmaceutical company representatives‘ access to both campuses and academic medical centers.
“Recognition by the American Medical Student Association is an important third-party endorsement of UC Davis‘ PharmFree policy,” said Ann Bonham, executive associate dean of academic affairs for the School of Medicine, in an e-mail interview. “UC Davis‘ PharmFree Policy limits access of pharmaceutical company representatives and prohibits medical students and physicians from accepting gifts of any kind from these representatives, from free drug samples, food, beverages, to pens, notepads and other marketing items.“
James Nuovo, associate dean for graduate medical education said limiting medical students‘ exposure to influence from drug companies is important for their development into independent-thinking physicians.
“There is always a concern when pharmaceutical companies develop relationships with physicians,” Nuovo said, “The main reason being that there is the potential that physicians may be influenced to not recognize harmful aspects of medications or even to prescribe it to patients that don’t necessarily need it.“
“Repeated exposure to pharmaceutical company gifts can influence the objectivity and integrity of teaching, learning and practice by subconsciously creating bias or preference for a particular pharmaceutical product,“ Bonham said.
According to an online article published by the UC Davis Health System, the medical school’s new measures, which will take effect July 1, go above and beyond the recommendations of a previous policy proposal published in January 2006 in the Journal of the American Medical Association by “banning preceptorships for pharmaceutical sales representatives.“
Preceptorships, a marketing technique that pharmaceutical companies have used for years, allow sales representatives, for a fee, to accompany doctors during their patient visits.
Nitin Roper, PharmFree Steering committee chair for AMSA, said that by conducting rankings such as these, AMSA hopes that medical schools will start to take conflict of interest issues more seriously.
“Most Americans are surprised to learn that medical schools still allow pharmaceutical companies to influence their clinical decisions,” Roper said. “Schools are beginning to realize the critical role they play in eliminating conflicts of interest and training future physicians to make evidence-based decisions.“
According to the AMSA website, the PharmFree Scorecard evaluated each school’s policies in 11 different domains including gifts, consulting relationships, industry-funded speaking relationships, pharmaceutical samples, meeting with pharmaceutical representatives, attendance at industry-sponsored meetings and medical school curriculum. Two other UC schools, San Francisco and Los Angeles, joined Davis at the top of the scorecard.
Roper said the scorecard started last fall and will be updated regularly to reflect schools‘ changing policies.
“We’re at a tipping point,” he said. “AMSA’s Scorecard sends the signal that sound pharmaceutical policy is a critical component of today’s medical education.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.