Is the pharma party over on campus?

Kudos to the Association of American Medical Colleges for pushing to stem the influence of drug and medical device makers on college campuses. In a set of recommendations released this week, the association called for an end to the industry practice of offering gifts, travel and other perks to students and staff at the nation’s 129 medical colleges. I blogged earlier about the American Medical Students Association campaign to kick drug and device makers off campus but this latest announcement may give the movement enough momentum to bring about true reform. Gardiner Harris’ story, “Ban urged on gifts at medical schools,” in the NYT notes that critics were surprised at the far-reaching proposal considering that some leading industry officials had sat on the task force that wrote the proposed ban.

From Gardiner’s story:

The new rules would apply only to medical schools, but they will have enormous influence across medicine, said Dr. David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University.

“We’re hoping the example set by academic medical colleges will be contagious,” Dr. Rothman said.

Drug companies spend billions of dollars wooing doctors — more than they spend on research or consumer advertising. Medical schools, packed with prominent professors and impressionable trainees, are particularly attractive marketing targets.

So companies have for decades provided faculty and students free food and gifts, offered lucrative consulting arrangements to top-notch teachers and even ghost-wrote research papers for busy professors.

“Such forms of industry involvement tend to establish reciprocal relationships that can inject bias, distort decision-making and create the perception among colleagues, students, trainees and the public that practitioners are being ‘bought’ or ‘bribed’ by industry,” the association’s report states.

If medical schools need some help rewriting their conflict-of-interest policies, they can visit the Prescription Project, which provides a “tool-kit” for hospitals and medical schools. More at the project’s blog, PostScript.

(Hat to tip to Dave at the Case Western blog for his tweet on this story).