Ethics reforms

Medical school should adopt new conflict of interest policies.
October 02, 2008

Since The Minnesota Daily reported on major ethical issues being raised in the medical school over the summer, Deborah Powell, dean of the medical school, had a big choice to make. She had to decide whether to reform the school’s conflicts of interest policy — a policy that governs when a doctor or professor has to disclose to the University his or her ties to a pharmaceutical company, how much a patient gets told, and how students are educated on such matters. Earlier this week, Minnesota Public Radio and The Minnesota Daily detailed a medical school proposal of suggested reforms to the school’s conflicts of interest policy, which is sure to put more pressure on Powell.
We urge Powell, who joined the corporate board of PepsiAmericas in 2006, to adopt the policies put forth by the conflict of interest task force she assembled.
Last summer, the University’s medical school received a “D” from the American Medical Student Association in a report ranking conflicts of interest policies at medical schools around the country. But the University is not alone in its shoddy policy in this area: Only 5 percent of schools nationwide received an “A” grade from the group.
The changes suggested by the task force, which included researchers, physicians, educators and students, are monumental, and Powell should accept them immediately. The recommendations include requiring doctors to disclose all relationships with drug companies to patients before making out prescriptions; prohibiting faculty, residents and students from receiving gifts from medical companies; and creating a website with conflicts of interest information.
According to Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group, in a recent two-year span, the University and its faculty received nearly $1.5 million from pharmaceutical companies. These practices among medical professionals must be prohibited in the future in order to increase the quality of patient care, and the University must act quickly and responsibly in teaching the physicians and medical practitioners of tomorrow. The medical industry is in need of transparency, and it can be built from its intellectual foundation: Colleges and universities that espouse its highest principles.

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