Partners No More

May 7th, 2009 | Sources: Boston Globe


In an effort to buffer or perhaps counteract private sector influence on the treatment decisions of its physicians, Partners HealthCare will soon enact new rules of engagement for its panels.

thatsano-noPartners, which includes Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, has decided for example to prohibit its physicians from accepting gifts and meals from Big Pharma and medical device firms.

Also banned will be cross-country junkets as paid members of “speakers bureaus” and ghostwriting, a practice in which scientists allow themselves to be included as authors on scholarly manuscripts penned by folks on drug company payrolls.

The plan will also tighten rules on how and when drug reps can visit physicians in the hospital, and include disclosing to the public more information about the nature of the relationships its physicians have with Big Pharma. Details of this latter change have yet to be worked out.

“We don’t want our faculty being on the road” as “hired guns,” Mass. General president Peter Slavin told the Boston Globe. And those free meals are history as well because they don’t “promote a positive image of physicians and increase healthcare costs,” he added.

The new policies were announced months after congressional klieg lights found Harvard-affiliated psychiatrists that might have engaged in improper relationships with Big Pharma. 

Republican Senator Charles Grassley has for example, accused Joseph Biederman of failing to reveal he’d pocketed $1.5 million in fees from Big Pharma between 2000 and 2007.

The moves did not completely satisfy HMS professor and former New England Journal of Medicine editor Arnold Relman.  He told the Globe “there should be no, zero, industry funding for any particular educational program,” involving Harvard-affiliated physicians.


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