Stanford To Ban Drug Company Gifts
Stanford University Medical Center on Tuesday is expected to announce a policy under which physicians will no longer be allowed to accept gifts from pharmaceutical sales representatives in an effort to limit the drug industry's influence on doctors' medical choices, the New York Times reports.
The policy, set to take effect Oct. 1, would prohibit doctors from accepting even small gifts such as pens or mugs from sales representatives for pharmaceutical, medical device and other companies. The policy also will prohibit doctors from accepting free drug samples and from publishing articles in medical journals that are underwritten by drug companies.
Doctors who purchase medical equipment will be responsible for reporting any financial relationship they have with medical device suppliers, and, in some cases, could be excluded from the purchasing process. The new policy will not affect consulting agreements between physicians and companies that develop drugs or devices, which already are covered by an existing conflict-of-interest policy.
The Times reports that the "move is part of a reaction against corporate influence on medicine at a time of growing concern over the safety and rising cost of drug and medical devices."
The pharmaceutical industry spends about 90% of its $21 billion marketing budget on physicians each year, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January that encouraged academic medical centers to adopt no-gift policies. The article stated even small gifts can engender a sense of obligation, while free drug samples are "a powerful inducement for physicians and patients to rely on medications that are expensive but not more effective."
Stanford School of Medicine Dean Philip Pizzo said, "We want to secure the public trust to value what happens in academic medicine," adding that the policy would cost the institution millions of dollars per year. "Many faculty members and departments have become dependent on sponsored meals from industry in order to run seminars," Pizzo said.
David Mangus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics and a contributor to the new policy, said it would lead to "a pretty major change in our culture."
Scott Lassman, senior assistant general counsel for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the new policy is a "disservice to patients and physicians," adding, "The company sales representatives, in our point of view, have a lot of useful information on drug products and how to use them, and how not to use them" (Pollack, New York Times, 9/12).