ACADEMIC RESEARCH: Harvard Will Not Ease Financial Limits
Officials at Harvard Medical School yesterday abandoned a proposal that would have relaxed the restrictions on the amount of money academic researchers can accept from the private companies with whom they work, the Washington Post reports. In light of the recent negative publicity surrounding conflict-of-interest concerns at other academic research institutions, Harvard officials indicated that they could not justify loosening the restrictions. Harvard Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Joseph Martin said, "Someone needs to take a high road and think about the integrity of the university." Under the school's policy adopted 10 years ago, medical researchers at the university can accept no more than $10,000 in consulting fees and hold no more than $20,000 in stock in companies that have a vested interest in their research. Considered to be one of the toughest in the country, Harvard's restrictions apply to nearly 8,000 faculty members in 17 affiliated institutions in the Boston area. Harvard's decision comes one week after departing New England Journal of Medicine editor-in-chief Marcia Angell published an editorial decrying the proliferation of conflicts in academic research institutions throughout the country (O'Harrow, 5/26). However, NEJM's incoming editor-in-chief Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, disagreed with Angell, arguing that "academic researchers should be able to own substantial stock in a company or accept sizeable consultant fees and still accept research support." Drazen is a member of the Harvard School of Medicine panel that recommended the university loosen its financial restrictions (California Healthline, 5/18). Earlier this week, HHS Secretary Donna Shalala also entered the fray, calling on NIH to clarify conflict-of-interest issues for university researchers. Despite their decision, Harvard Officials did not rule out future attempts to revive the proposal (Washington Post, 5/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.