Medical Schools Rated on Conflicts of Interest

Evelyn Pringle June 18, 2009

This week the American Medical Student Association released its “AMSA PharmFree Scorecard 2009,” based on an evaluation of conflict-of-interest policies at 149 medical colleges and colleges of osteopathic medicine in the US, with a focus on interaction between students or faculty and the pharmaceutical industry

The methodology for the Scorecard was jointly developed by AMSA and the Pew Prescription Project, and assesses policies related to: “acceptance of gifts and meals from industry; consulting relationships; speaking relationships; disclosure of financial conflicts; pharmaceutical samples; individuals with financial conflicts participating in university purchasing decisions; financial support for educational events (on- and off-campus); industry support for scholarships and trainee funds; access of industry sales personnel to medical school or hospital personnel; and inclusion of education about conflict of interest within the academic curriculum,” according to a June 16, 2009, Executive Summary, on the AMSA website.

The presence of oversight and sanctions is also examined, “but not included in grade calculation,” the summary notes.

Of the 149 colleges, 35 schools, or 23%, received an F. Seventeen received a D, 18 were graded C, 36 schools received a B, and only 9 got an A.

Every school is invited to submit policies for assessment each year. “Institutions that do not submit policies are assumed to be unchanged from the prior year, and retain an unchanged assessment,” AMSA explains:

“Any institution submitting a formal notification that its policies are currently under review receives a grade of In Process (I), which may stand for up to one year.  After a year of being In process, if a school does not submit either policies for evaluation or a description of their progress in developing such policies, they receive a grade of F.”

The colleges that received an F this year include, “12 that either submitted policies graded as F or indicated they had no relevant policies, as well as 8 schools that declined to participate and 10 that did not respond to repeated attempts at follow-up both in 2008 and 2009,” according to the summary.

“An additional 5 schools received Fs when they did not submit new policies or demonstrate a continuing policy development process after remaining In Process for one year,” AMSA notes.

27 schools received a grade of In Process because they indicated that they are currently revising or creating new policies. Of the 27 In Process, “15 have extended their 2008 In Process designation, and 12 are newly In Process,” according to the summary.

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