Study finds Health Sciences’ practices stronger than average

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The conflict-of-interest policies established by West Virginia University’s Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center have earned a strong endorsement in a national medical school study.

“Overall, West Virginia University School of Medicine has some of the strongest policies among AMCs (academic medical centers),” wrote Susan Chimonas, Ph.D., and David J. Rothman, Ph.D., in a letter to Arthur J. Ross, III, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the School of Medicine.

“Avoiding conflicts of interest is vitally important in all of our missions as a Health Sciences Center,” Dr. Ross said. “Whether we’re taking care of a patient, teaching a student, interpreting research or engaged in any other academic activity, we always must practice as responsible professionals.”

Drs. Chimonas and Rothman, both of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, are among the co-authors of an article in the October 2013 issue of the journal “Academic Medicine” that analyzed the conflict-of-interest policies of 127 medical schools in the U.S. in June 2011.

Although the study focused on medical schools, the policy at WVU covers all five health professional schools at the University. It was adopted in 2010 by the HSC Executive Committee at the recommendation of a committee of faculty members and administrators led by Alvin Moss, M.D., of the School of Medicine.

The WVU policy bans gifts and meals from vendors and places restrictions on many other financial interactions among faculty members, staff and students and the pharmaceutical- and medical-supply industries.

The researchers gave WVU a score of 2.2 on a 0-3 score rating the strength of its conflict-of-interest policies. That’s equal to or higher than 80 percent of all the medical schools studied.

Despite the positive ranking, the WVU policy remains under regular review, Dr. Moss said. “Since the data from this survey was collected in 2011, we have strengthened our restrictions on pharmaceutical samples in our clinics,” he said. “We’d get an even higher score today.”

The full study, “Managing Conflicts of Interest in Clinical Care: The ‘Race to the Middle’ at U.S. Medical Schools,” appears in “Academic Medicine,” Vol. 88, No. 10 / October 2013. The WVU HSC Code of Conduct on Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment is available online at http://home.hsc.wvu.edu/about/governance-policies-and-guidelines/code-of-conduct.
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bc: 10-31-13