Meals and gifts from vendors and industry prohibited

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University’s four health professions schools have adopted a new set of rules governing relations with vendors and industry that substantially strengthens safeguards against potential conflicts of interest. The new Code of Conduct forbids faculty, staff and students at the HSC from accepting gifts or meals from drug or medical device industry representatives, or from vendors who may do business with the University or its affiliated healthcare organizations.

 “We are committed to an uncompromising adherence to our public trust, and to transparency and accountability in our actions as educators, scientists and clinicians,” said Christopher C. Colenda, M.D., WVU Chancellor for Health Sciences.  “The Code of Conduct is intended to establish best practices on how to deal with potential and real conflicts of interests with industry representatives.  It applies across the HSC, including external campuses and offices.” 

The Code also strictly limits the use of pharmaceutical and medical device samples, and establishes limits and reporting requirements for consulting relationships and other contacts between individuals and industry. All industry gifts—even those of nominal value—are prohibited. The familiar pens and mugs with drug company logos are going to disappear from Health Sciences Center offices and events.

The deans of the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy each serve on the committee that unanimously approved the Code, and each voted in favor of its adoption. It was drafted by a faculty committee led by Alvin H. Moss, M.D., director of WVU’s Center for Health Ethics and Law.

Dr. Moss said the new Code is intended to strengthen trust among healthcare professionals, educators, students, and patients. “The HSC is holding to high standards our patient care, training of students, and relationships with industry,” he said. “This is an opportunity to emphasize that patients are our first priority and that the HSC values accountability, transparency, objectivity, and integrity.”

Dr. Colenda noted that the new Code is not intended to prevent active collaboration with industry representatives or programs. “Those who develop and maintain close relationships with professionals outside academia strengthen our work,” he said. “It’s critical that faculty members remain aware of developments in industry or elsewhere that may have an impact on their research, the care we deliver to patients, and our educational activities. Many faculty are also involved in professional organizations that also include colleagues working in industry.

“This new Code of Conduct is not meant to prevent those relationships – only to set some ground rules. The basic principle is that you are free to establish and maintain productive relationships with industry, but should refrain from taking any action that benefits you financially or might be perceived to influence your decisions.”

The Code of Conduct was adopted in late September and became effective Oct. 1. It is available online at:

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
bc: 10-18-10