To keep its doctors from being tainted by business biases, Stanford
University’s medical school announced Tuesday it is imposing a highly
unusual restriction on educational contributions by drug and medical
Under the policy, which takes effect Monday,
companies will no longer be able to designate that their contributions
be used for specific types of medical training, to limit the companies’
ability to tailor those sessions around their products.
Instead, the companies will only be able to make general-purpose contributions and the kind of training it finances will be solely determined by Stanford.
The change was hailed by Robert Restuccia, executive
director of the Prescription Project, a Boston-based organization that
seeks to limit industry conflicts-of-interest at medical schools.
"It’s an important step forward," he said. "It puts Stanford in the elite of schools" attempting to restrain corporate influence on their campuses.
Dr. David Korn, chief scientific officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges and a former Stanford Medical School dean, agreed.
"They are really taking a very important leadership role and setting a very high example for others to follow," he said.
At least five other medical schools at University of California, Davis and
the universities of Massachusetts, Pittsburgh, Colorado and Kansas,
have procedures limiting the say companies have in how their education contributions are spent, according to the Prescription Project. But Stanford’s policy appears to be among the most restrictive.
Officials at Stanford, whose faculty ties to medical companies was the subject of several Mercury News stories in 2006, said they have been looking into their interactions with industry since 2005.
The university enacted a policy in 2006 that barred its doctors from receiving free medical company meals and other gifts. But Dr. Philip Pizzo, Stanford’s medical school dean, said it became clear that wasn’t enough after his discussions with industry leaders convinced him companies "could modify the prescribing patterns of physicians" through their educational
The new restrictions on companies could backfire, Pizzo acknowledged.
big risk for us of course is that they may say, ‘Gee, we’re just not
going to give any money to Stanford,’" he said. Nonetheless, he
added, "we want to be sure we’re not contributing to the marketing of
Drug and medical-device company contributions for
continuing medical education have surged nationwide from $302 million
in 1998 to $1.2 billion in 2006, according to the Accreditation Council
for Continuing Medical Education. Stanford officials said about $1.87
million — or 38 percent — of the medical school’s budget for continuing
education came from industry sources in fiscal 2006-07.
prompted the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and
Judicial Affairs in June to issue a report urging individual doctors
and medical institutions to reject such donations, because it could
"threaten the integrity of medicine’s educational function," according
to a Stanford news release.
Congress also has been investigating industry financing of continuing medical education.
Because of such concerns, "companies have taken steps to separate the
grant-making process for educational programs from their marketing
efforts,” according to a statement issued by the Pharmaceutical
Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents many large drug
and biotechnology companies.
Still, Stanford’s new policy "will help ensure that patients can have faith that their doctors’ decisions are based on science and not a drug company’s marketing plan,” said John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group based in Santa Monica.
Contact Steve Johnson at [email protected] or 408-920-5043