AMSA’s PharmFree Scorecard: U.S. Medical Schools Head in Right Direction to Avoid Conflict of Interest

Written by Rupin Thakkar, MD, NPA Unbranded Doctor Network Co-Chair,
March 9, 2012

While there’s still work to be done, it’s good news that more medical schools in the US are adopting strong conflict-of-interest policies governing pharmaceutical industry interactions at the schools.
The American Medical Student Association’s (AMSA) 2012 PharmFree Scorecard reveals that 102 of the 152 medical schools in the US received a grade of A or B for their Conflict-of-Interest policies, up from 79 last year.
AMSA’s PharmFree Scorecard grades medical schools according to their conflict of interest policies. Policies regarding gifts, meals, paid promotional speaking on behalf of the industry, acceptance of free samples, interactions with sales reps and other policy domains are analyzed.  See the most recent grades – 2011-2012 American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard.
It’s great the majority of schools have strong policies and that more are adopting such policies.  As more light is shed on the industry’s strategies for influencing prescribers and prescribing patterns, questions need to be asked and steps need to be taken to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest.  AMSA’s work on this is timely and important.
While more schools are adopting good policies, it’s important moving forward to make sure the policies are enforced and strengthened over time.  For example, only two medical schools report banning pharmaceutical sales representatives from campus.  While information about new drug therapies is important, information from sales reps needs to be balanced with nonbiased, evidence-based information on what works best for most people and is safest.
NPA’s Unbranded Doctor Network is a national network of physicians committed to reducing the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on the medical profession.  NPA has joined forces with AMSA, Community Catalyst and the Pew Charitable Trust through the Partnership to Advance Conflict-free Medical Education (PACME) to create both external and internal pressure for medical schools and academic medical centers to adopt strong new conflict of interest policies.  The Partnership is made possible through a grant from the State Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin.
PACME aims to result in having 75% of medical schools in the US adopt strong COI standards and to develop physician leadership to sustain and promote this change. NPA will host a series of National Grand Rounds and Bimonthly Conflict-free leadership Calls on this issue over the course of the next three years as part of this Partnership.  See for more information on the Partnership to Advance Conflict-free Medical Education.
With 67% of medical schools in the US now receiving a grade of A or B for their COI policies, we are surely headed in the right direction… but still have more work to do to in our effort to restore trust and integrity in the medical profession.