Harvard Medical School is jumping on the gift band bandwagon with a sweeping policy to regulate contact by its 11,000 faculty members with the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.
The school’s new policy, slated to go into effect Jan. 1, 2011, will bar HMS faculty from delivering promotional talks for device and drug makers and from accepting personal gifts, travel, or meals, according to a report in The Boston Globe.
The new rules also place stricter limits on consulting and board work for healthcare companies and require public reporting of any payment of $5,000 or more. The regulations also rein in promotional efforts during the medical school’s robust continuing education programs for docs, according to the Globe, which cited the annual Pri-Med conference for primary care physicians in Boston. Pharma firms offer separate breakfast, lunch and dinner lectures by specialists not affiliated with the university; those events will now be held at a separate location, the newspaper reported.
Harvard’s is the latest medical school to enact a so-called "gift ban," following Johns Hopkins University, which enacted its own rules last April. Boston University School of Medicine is revising its rules, according to the Globe, and Stanford University School of Medicine and UMass Memorial Medical Center both have strict policies.
Healthcare providers are also getting in on the act. Partners Healthcare, which runs hospitals including Boston’s Brigham and Women’s, Mass. General and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Network, instituted its own ban in April 2009 and tightened those rules earlier this year.
And states including Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota have their own, strict rules; other states are also mulling bans. On the federal level, the healthcare reform act also contains provisions governing industry contact with physicians.
Doctors themselves, however, take a less-dim view of industry-sponsored meals and other “small gifts related to clinical practice," according to a survey of 600 physicians published in the Archives of Surgery earlier this month.
In Massachusetts, the House of Representatives voted to roll back parts of the Commonwealth’s gift ban July 7, in an effort to bolster the Bay State’s significant medical device cluster. It’s no surprise that the initiative is unpopular among industry advocates. Richard Packer, CEO of Chelmsford-based cardiac device maker Zoll Medical Corp. (NSDQ:ZOLL), told MassDevice that it’s “silly” that a doctor can visit Zoll but the company isn’t allowed to serve them a sandwich.
For Zoll, Packer said, “there’s no way to quantify not being able to build relationships, not being about give someone a Coke in your factory, not having people come visit. It’s death by a thousand cuts.”