Harvard students demand pharma disclosures

While we're talking potential conflicts of interest, here's a story from the younger generation. Medical students from Harvard, Tufts and Boston universities rallied at Harvard Medical School in support of a comprehensive anti-conflict policy covering not only the classroom but also all affiliated teaching hospitals. The protestors delivered a 200-signature petition to the Dean's office, saying that students have been fighting for such a policy for six years.

"We really view this issue as something that is key to the integrity of medical education at Harvard," David C. Tian, a first-year student, told The Harvard Crimson. Tian recently pushed the administration to adopt a policy addition mandating that faculty and students disclose financial ties to pharmaceutical companies when discussing drugs developed by those companies in the classroom, the paper reported.

Administrators told the Crimson that they're taking the student demands seriously. One difficulty lies in the fact that Harvard doesn't own its teaching hospitals as many med schools do; instead, there are 15 affiliated institutions owned and operated by non-profits. Harvard can't force those hospitals to adopt specific policies, officials said. But Yale, which also does not own its affiliated hospitals, has a comprehensive conflict of interest policy. Harvard Medical School Dean Jeff Flier has promised that the issue will be part of a university-wide policy review this fall, so stay tuned.

- see the Crimson article