PITTSBURGH, November 12, 2007 The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences (SOHS) and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) today announced a new, far-reaching industry relations policy to ensure that interactions between health care providers and the drug and medical device industries produce benefits for patient care, research and medical education. The new policy, which takes effect on Feb. 15, 2008, will apply to the faculty, staff and students of the SOHS, as well as employees and others who work and train at UPMCs U.S. facilities.
As one of the nations premier medical institutions, we must assure the highest quality, scientifically based care for our patients, said Barbara Barnes, M.D., associate dean of continuing education at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and one of the leaders in developing the new standards. This policy is aimed at removing the improper influence of commercial interests on patient care and research, while recognizing industry's positive role in advancing the practice of medicine.
Based on an extensive review of policies and practices at other leading academic medical centers and on feedback from physicians and employees throughout the health system, the policy addresses a number of critical areas in the relationships between health care providers and industry defined as pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and hospital equipment suppliers.
Key provisions include:
SOHS and UPMC personnel may not accept personal gifts, including food, from industry representatives, regardless of the dollar value of the gifts.
Consulting arrangements between industry and university or UPMC personnel must be reviewed and approved in advance. Consulting contracts without any substantial job duties are considered gifts and, therefore, are prohibited.
Industry representatives must register with UPMC supply chain management and be specifically invited to meet with health care providers for a specific purpose to be allowed into SOHS or UPMC facilities.
Attendance of faculty and physicians at industry-sponsored meetings is subject to restrictions designed to ensure that such events promote evidence-based clinical care or advance scientific research.
A multidisciplinary group of doctors, pharmacists and other practitioners is examining the complex issue of drug and device samples provided by industry. Some studies have shown that the availability of brand-name samples in doctors offices may lead to the long-term use of expensive medications when lower-cost, generic drugs would be equally or more effective. At the same time, there are benefits to having these samples available, including enabling patients to quickly begin a course of treatment, allowing the trial of a medication to see if it is effective and well-tolerated, and assisting patients who are struggling with high drug costs. The working group will determine whether alternative methods, such as central distribution of samples to UPMC facilities, are feasible and can meet patient needs in cases where the use of samples may be justified. Interim changes will be made in February to assure that the handling of drug and device samples is consistent with the new policy.
SOHS and UPMC will conduct a variety of educational programs to explain the new policy to employees and to industry representatives. Enforcement efforts will range from individual counseling to termination and suspension of industry contracts for egregious violations. Our goal is not just to change policy but to change behavior and the culture of health care as it relates to industry relationships, noted Dr. Barnes. We recognize that industry relationships can advance medical care and research, she added, but we want to ensure that these relationships are properly managed and monitored to provide the best possible outcomes for our patients.
The policy also will be available on the University of Pittsburgh Conflict of Interest website ( www.coi.pitt.edu/IndustryRelationships) beginning at noon, Monday, Nov. 12.