Establishing Policies for the Relationship Between Industry and Clinicians: Lessons Learned From Two Academic Health Centers

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The relationship between faculty in academic health centers (AHCs) and commercial entities is critically important to improving the public health, yet it may be prone to conflicts of interest that adversely affect medical education, research, and clinical care. The Association of American Medical Colleges has recently recommended that medical schools and AHCs develop policies that better manage and occasionally prohibit interactions between academic medicine and industry. Because the development of more stringent policies is complex and potentially contentious, the author reports the lessons learned from developing new policies for the interactions between faculty and industry related to medical education and clinical care at Yale School of Medicine and Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center. The content of the policies was strongly influenced by the tenets of medical professionalism. Faculty support for new policies was strong, an iterative and inclusive process of formulation was critical, compromises in content were necessary, and the views of faculty concerning industry relationships were complex. After implementation of the new policies, the departmental food-related expenses increased, the loss of gifts was not appreciably missed, the faculty assumed more responsibility for educating trainees on the evaluation of new products, a central repository for receiving and evaluating grants from industry was useful, enforcement of the policies has been a lingering challenge, and the new policies generated positive publicity. Several recommendations are proposed. Creating these policies affirmed the importance of an inclusive process, open communication, support of institutional leadership, and focus on professional values.

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