News Clipping: Stanford Bans Industry Gifts and Limits Industry Access

by Katrina Kahl

Stanford University Medical Center recently announced a new policy that prohibits physicians from accepting gifts from the pharmaceutical, bio-device, and other related industries. The policy, which took effect on October 1, 2006, states that it is “unacceptable for patient care decisions to be influenced by the possibility of personal financial gain” and bans gifts of any size, including pens, tote bags, and drug samples.1

The policy also includes guidelines for participating in industry-sponsored events off-campus and prohibits doctors from publishing articles in medical journals that are ghost-written by industry contractors. Additionally, the policy bars industry representatives from patient treatment and doctor education areas (with a few exceptions), and requires doctors who buy medical equipment to report any financial ties to equipment suppliers.

By enacting this policy, Stanford joins a small but growing movement of major academic medical institutions that aims to limit the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on its doctors’ daily activities. The Yale Medical Group and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania announced new strict policies around industry gifts at the beginning of 2006, and other academic medical centers are considering adopting similar policies.

In addition to growing concern over drug pricing and safety, part of the momentum for the movement came from an article published in a January 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.2 The article states that “of the $21 billion the pharmaceutical industry spends every year on marketing, as much as 90 percent is directed at physicians through various mechanisms, such as free meals, gifts and drug samples and sponsorship of continuing medical education programs and other events,” and said that some studies show that even small gifts can create a sense of obligation. The article also includes a set of recommendations, calling upon academic medical centers to adopt policies that minimize any potential conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical and other related industries. The Association of American Medical Colleges responded favorably to the recommendations, creating a task force to examine the current situation and help medical centers adopt stricter policies.

BCA congratulates Stanford and other academic medical centers, including Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, that have adopted policies that limit industry gifts and access. Understanding the importance of providing unbiased information, BCA adopted its own corporate contributions policy in 1998, stating that it will not accept money from any corporation that profits from or contributes to the breast cancer epidemic.3 By minimizing conflicts of interest, physicians, advocates, and researchers can ensure that people living with cancer and other diseases receive the best information and care available.

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1 Stanford Medical Center press release, “New Stanford Medical Center Policy Limits Drug Company Access and Gifts,” September 12, 2006.

2 T.A. Brennan, et al., “Health Industry Practices that Create Conflicts of Interest: A Policy Proposal for Academic Medical Centers,” JAMA, 2006; 295(4), January 25, 2006.

BCA’s Corporate Contributions Policy

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