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State legislatures, medical schools target gifts, financial conflicts

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 20, 2009

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Bills in Vermont and Iowa that would ban pharmaceutical company gifts to doctors stepped closer to enactment. Two more academic medical centers, meanwhile, tightened policies on gifts and financial conflicts.

In late March, the Iowa Senate approved a bill to ban most drug- and device-maker gifts to physicians, with exceptions for scientific conferences or seminars and payments to doctors speaking at such conferences or doing bona fide work in consulting or in clinical trials. All such payments would be publicly disclosed. The bill also bans the use of physician prescribing data for pharmaceutical sales marketing. The legislation was forwarded to the Iowa House Human Resources Committee.

The Vermont Senate passed a similar bill in early April, and the House will vote on its version before May. Another proposal seeking to ban gifts, this one in Minnesota, was withdrawn because its sponsor lacked the votes to get it out of committee.

As lawmakers look to ban gifts, more health care organizations are changing their practices.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore announced a new policy in April to bar doctors and other health professionals at the school and Hopkins' hospitals and clinics from accepting industry gifts. The new policy, which takes effect in July, also bans free drug samples.

Ohio's Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine also unveiled a tighter conflict-of-interest policy, adopted in February, that requires doctors and others to report potentially problematic payments.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2009/04/20/prbf0420.htm.

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