Permanente Medical Group Adopts New Conflict-of-Interest Policy
Permanente Medical Group over the past four months has "quietly" instituted new conflict-of-interest rules that "severely limit" ties between the medical group's approximately 6,000 physicians and pharmaceutical companies, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The new policy states that physicians cannot:
- Accept gifts or discounted products from any drug or equipment vendors for themselves or their families;
- Accept compensation, honoraria or gifts from a company that asks them to teach an accredited medical course sponsored by the company; and
- Participate in speakers' bureaus unless they receive prior approval from the medical group, which will grant approval only if it is deemed to be in Kaiser's interest.
Doctors still will be allowed to participate in industry-sponsored clinical trials and professional societies and organizations that do not compete with Kaiser.
Robert Pearl, executive director and CEO of the medical group, said the policy likely will become a model for all Kaiser network physicians, as well as other medical provider networks.
Sharon Levine, lead author of the policy and associate executive director of the Permanente Medical Group in Northern California, said, "To protect our patients and ensure that decisions about drugs and medical devices and equipment were truly being made in the best interest of our patients, we felt the need for a rigorous approach that would address both the actual and the potential for perceived conflict of interest. That is a pretty high standard."
Levine added, "We are not cutting off all contact, but doing it in a way in which we have a much higher degree of confidence that we are not only managing conflicts of interest, but avoiding them."
Merrill Goozner, who examines conflicts of interest at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said, "It appears to be a real serious effort to separate the marketing arms of the medicine and device industry from the practice of medicine."
Pearl said, "What really has changed is the ability of a drug or other medical vendor to approach an individual physician or small group of physicians and offer them something of significant value with an implicit assumption that there will be a return to the company."
Jason Flamm, a Kaiser physician who specializes in HIV treatment, said, "The overall policy is a move in the right direction. But we need to think about how we keep our physicians at the forefront of medical care and in the public's eye to continue to build our reputation" (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 4/22).