(Updated) U of Minnesota medical conflict-of-interest policy gets a B

AMSA scorecard

American Medical Student Association

Some improvement

After giving the University of Minnesota a D for its conflict of interest policy in 2008,  the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) revised the U’s grade to a B.

You might remember the policy, which was rolled out in August. It has taken its licks for what critics say it fails to rein in, and received some mild expressions of concern from the Pew Charitable Trusts and AMSA itself, which had given the U a transitional score of C.

Yet after a few months of looking over the policy, AMSA has noted some improvements:

University of Minnesota provides a good policy which prohibits gifts and meals. Funds provided for CME must be utilized independent of industry control according to ACCME standards. Samples are not permitted and industry representatives are allowed on campus by invitation by faculty and staff. Responsible parties and repercussions for non-compliance are clearly stated in policy. This institution made a new or revised policy submission to the AMSA PharmFree Scorecard in 2010. Their grade improves from a D to B.

A closer look at the scorecard shows model policies in the categories of Purchasing and formularies and Attendance at Industry-Sponsored Lectures & Meetings Off-Campus.

But AMSA saw no policy available for Industry Support for Scholarships & Funds for Trainees, and seemed to find the U’s explanation of its Medical school curriculum policy incomplete:

Stated that conflict of interest is discussed in a session entitled “Foundations of Interprofessional Communication and Collaboration” – score may be improved if contents of online module are provided for assessment.

Also, it found explicit sanctions for noncompliance with the policies, but saw no real oversight mechanism:

Primary contacts are listed, but appear to be more like a “customer service support” and not an authority responsible for compliance.

In all other categories, AMSA rated the U as making “good progress toward a model policy.”

I’ve got a call into AMSA for a little more explanation, but in the meantime, you can read the scorecard in full here.

Update:

I’ve just spoken with Tim Anderson, director of the American Medical Student scorecard program.

He told me:

The University of Minnesota seems to have good policies for every category except for industry support. But most seem to have a limitation. For example, it bans on-campus meals and gifts, but not off-site. So it has good policies that don’t quite far enough, or have exceptions.

Usually, the simplest policies are the best – those without nuances or exceptions. It’s easier to comply with  policies when they’re easily understood.

On the lack of a policy in the Industry Support for Scholarships & Funds for Trainees category:

It’s not the largtest hole compared to some other areas, but if (the school in question) is a large research institution, it’s more concerning than in one that is not.

What we look for in an ideal policy is one where industry can contribute to an institution, but the donation is fully in the institution’s hands. Industry should not influence who gets it.

On the U’s progress:

It’s definitely a step in right direction, but there’s definite room for improvement.