Harvard unveils strict conflicts policy

Want a prestigious speaker to talk about your drugs? Forget anyone from Harvard Medical School. The institution has set a new conflicts of interest policy that prohibits faculty from giving promotional talks for drug and device makers. It also nixes personal gifts, travel and meals, the Boston Globe reports.

Harvard will allow consulting work, but income from those jobs will be limited. Plus, payments of at least $5,000 will have to be reported and posted on a school website. And those financial relationships will be more closely monitored than in the past, the school promises. The new rules will be phased in beginning Jan. 1.

Dr. Robert Mayer, who co-chaired the committee that wrote the new policy, says the rules are designed to keep Harvard doctors from looking like industry shills. "We're anxious to be viewed publicly as doing what's in the best interest of our patients,'' Mayer tells the Globe. The school wants to "ensure credibility even more than we do today.''

Harvard is just the latest medical school to establish stricter rules for faculty and teaching-hospital staff. There's been something of a wave of new conflicts policies, fueled in part by scrutiny from Congress. Harvard officials actually met with Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)--who has investigated some Harvard docs' financial relationships with industry--to present the new policy. 

- read the Globe piece
- check out the fact box from the Globe

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