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Johns Hopkins Bans Industry Gifts to Doctors

Apr 9, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Johns Hopkins University has implemented a new policy to prevent conflicts-of -interest problems between its doctors and the drug and medical device industries.  According to The Wall Street Journal, the policy bans free drug samples and prohibits many "consulting" fees.

Such policies are becoming a trend.  Recently, we reported that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a release stating that its Board of Trustees voted to not only to phase out industry-supported symposia, but to phase out industry-supplied meals at its annual meetings, as well. Prior to that, the state of Massachusetts adopted what are considered by many to be the most comprehensive rules governing gifts, disclosure fees, and other perks normally bestowed upon doctors by drug and medical device makers.

Late last month, U.S. prosecutors dropped charges against several orthopedic device makers after the companies had fulfilled the terms of a settlement that had been reached over a year and half ago.  The companies - Zimmer Holdings Inc., Johnson & Johnson unit DePuy, Smith & Nephew PLC and Biomet Inc. - had been accused of using "consulting fees" to encourage doctors to favor their products.  In general, the doctors who received the fees did little to no work for any of the device makers.

Well publicized conflicts-of-interest cases like the one involving the orthopedic firms have prompted investigations in Congress, as well as calls for reform from consumer advocates and doctors' groups.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Johns Hopkins policy bars "gifts, entertainment or food — regardless of value — from drug and medical device companies. It bars drug and device sales reps from patient-care areas, and says they’re only allowed in other areas when invited by doctors or other staff. Donations from industry will have to be given to Hopkins itself rather than individual doctors."

The Johns Hopkins policy includes a ban on  free drug samples.  According to the policy itself, the free sample ban was implemented because: "The practice of accepting free pharmaceutical samples risks interference with one’s prescribing practices since industry representatives often provide the newest and most costly drugs."

It also bans consulting fees “without commensurate associated duties," the  Journal said.

“This policy will help us promote a culture in which Hopkins faculty and other personnel can exercise independent, unbiased judgment in all their activities while interacting with industry in appropriate ways…” said Johns Hopkins chief executive Edward Miller in a statement.

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