Harvard hospitals restrict pharma ties

Not to be outdone by Johns Hopkins' teaching hospital, Harvard's affiliated healthcare institutions are launching a new conflicts-of-interest policy. The new policy prohibits doctors at PartnersHealthCare--which includes Mass General and Brigham and Women's hospitals--from accepting free meals from drugmakers. They also won't be able to serve on drug-company speakers' bureaus. Pharma reps can't visit hospital staff without "written invitations defining the purpose and terms of visits," according to a Partners statement quoted in the WSJ Health Blog.

All that is more or less similar to Johns Hopkins' new policy announced last week. The big difference? The fact that it's the hospitals and clinics themselves leading the way on the policy: It doesn't cover Harvard Medical School, except to the extent that faculty practices at Partners' facilities. Harvard has been talking for some time about coming up with a conflicts policy, but, ironically, it was the hospitals that were held up to be the major obstacles, because they're affiliated with the med school, not operated by it.

Harvard hospitals are among a growing number of healthcare institutions--especially teaching hospitals--that have decided to scale back their interactions with pharma. Sales reps are finding their hands tied more and more tightly as their ability to interact with (and woo) doctors is curtailed. In at least one hospital, device reps have to wear color-coded scrubs when they're in patient-care areas. What's next? The Scarlet P?

- read the Health Blog post