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Harvard Tightens Rules on Faculty-Drug Maker Ties

Harvard has tightened its conflict-of-interest restrictions on 11,000 faculty members, prohibiting them from speaking on behalf of pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers, and from accepting personal gifts, meals or travel, The Boston Globe reports.

Liz Kowalczyk writes that the new rules are intended to protect Harvard's prestigious brand from being used to market drugs or other medical products.

The conflict-of-interest rules also place stricter limits on the income faculty can earn from companies for consulting, joining boards, and other work; require public reporting of payments of at least $5,000 on a medical school website; and promise more robust internal reporting and monitoring of these relationships.

Harvard, which provides continuing medical education for tens of thousands of doctors worldwide, also will erect a more solid firewall between itself and health care companies during these courses. The greatest impact will be on Pri-Med, an annual conference for primary care doctors at a Boston convention center, which features Harvard-taught courses. Pharmaceutical companies pay for separate breakfast, lunch, and dinner lectures by non-Harvard specialists and even market products in restrooms. The industry program will be moved to a more separate location, and marketing signs will no longer be allowed in bathrooms.

The new rules, which will be phased in after Jan. 1, are designed to keep doctors from becoming — or being perceived as — marketing agents for industry, said Dr. Robert Mayer, cochairman of the committee that wrote the new policy. “We’re anxious to be viewed publicly as doing what’s in the best interest of our patients,’’ he said. The school wants to “ensure credibility even more than we do today.’’

This program aired on July 21, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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