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Conflict of Interest policy creates guidelines for doctors and drug companies

For those who take prescription medications on a regular basis, a trip to the pharmacy can be a wallet-emptying event, leaving patients wondering if their doctors have their best interest at heart.

In the 2nd annual prescription drug survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed more than 1,150 adults who currently take prescription drugs and found that 69 percent of those polled think drug companies have too much influence on medications doctors prescribe.

“The general attitude is that anybody can be bought,” Jeffrey Tramonte, M.D.

But, the neurologist said Scott & White is trying to change that attitude by updating the hospital’s conflict of interest policy.

The purpose of the policy is to “assure appropriate interactions between Scott & White Healthcare and the biomedical industry regarding patient care, education and research, and corporate business practices.” It provides “guidelines for responding to certain situations which, if mis-handled, could result in a conflict of interest.”

Dr. Tramonte said academic institutions, like Scott & White, want their patients to be confident that they are not being influenced by drug companies and that they are doing what is in the best interest of the patient.

“My personal thought is that most doctors believe they wouldn’t be swayed by a pharmaceutical rep,” he said. “But what the doctor thinks about himself is irrelevant. It’s what the public believes that matters.”

“Explore."

With the policy in place, it is a lot easier for patients to know what protocol their physician should be following.

“When I’m prescribing multiple sclerosis medication that costs more than $20,000 a year, I have to make sure my patients know that I have no financial interest and I receive no benefits from the drug companies,” Dr. Tramonte said.

He explains to them that he prescribes on the basis of the best available scientific literature, so they know he’s being honest and has their best interest in mind.

“Everybody can be influenced, but when organizations or private practices adopt policies and codes of conduct when it comes to conflict of interest, it is easier for the physicians to hold to those principles.”

Below are some examples of the guidelines in the conflict of interest policy.

Drug Samples

  • Drug samples may be accepted if they are delivered at a specified time to the departmental administrator and distributed equally.
  • There will be documentation of the samples that are handed out and the document will be reviewed by an appropriate administrator.

Pharmaceutical Reps

  • Pharmaceutical representatives do not have access to Scott & White employees and trainees.
  • The reps must register through the appropriate Scott & White administrative process, respond to an invitation extended by Scott & White staff, make an appointment to come to Scott &White, and then come at the appointed time.

Participation in Industry-Sponsored Programs

  • Doctors may participate in speaking engagements sponsored by drug companies if they are presenting their own work or expertise.
  • The doctors’ presentations must be pre-approved by the Department Chairman.
  • Those giving the presentation should not accept payment for their work.
  • Accepting gifts for presentations or speaking engagements is also discouraged.

The information presented above is paraphrased from the statements outlined in the Scott & White Conflict of Interest Policy.

About the author

Jessa McClure
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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Conflict of Interest policy creates guidelines for doctors and drug companies