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  • Advice as graduation approaches....

    To the Class of 2013,

    Congratulations on an incredible achievement; in a few short days or weeks you will be receiving your MD/DO degree and then embarking onto residency! While you undergo this transition, the field of medicine also is facing dramatic changes, both internally and externally. There has been increasing scrutiny on the objectivity of our judgement as physicians and how our relationships with industry can affect the trust relationship that is at the heart of the doctor-patient dyad.

    Patients are skeptical of our relationships with industry and are concerned that they may compromise our ability to render effective and cost conscious care. In fact, studies have shown that when exposed to industry interactions such as gifts (even pens!), drug samples, free meals, and travel, doctors are more likely to prescribe costly name-brand medications and less likely to prescribe the cheaper generic alternatives. You might see this as a deviation from the evidence-based prescribing methods you learned over the past four years, while patients may see it as an erosion of trust and a higher bottom line cost for medical care in a world of skyrocketing healthcare costs.

    If you can appreciate that industry interactions with medical professionals have the potential to affect the patient-doctor relationship, there here is the good news: part of the Affordable Care Act called the the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (“Sunshine Act”) requires manufacturers of drugs and medical devices to report the monetary value of gifts and payments to doctors to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, all of which will be posted on a publicly accessible website. This includes the costs of gifts, consulting fees, research activities, speaking fees, meals and travel. However, payments or other “transfers of value” to residents (you) will not be required to be reported. What will this mean for you?

    Best wishes for success as you begin residency,
    The PharmFree Steering Committee

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  • Dollars for Doctors: Are Pharmaceutical Companies Paying Your Doctors?

    AMSA PharmFree Fellow Reshma Ramachandran joined a panel on American Law Journal to debate whether physicians should take money from pharmaceutical companies. They also discussed the recent GlaxoSmithKline settlement over "unsavory marketing practices" and its "unhealthy alliance with doctors," specifically Dr. Drew.

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  • Watch the PharmFree Scorecard Launch!

    On Thursday, March 8th, AMSA released the findings of the 2011-2012 PharmFree Scorecard.

    Watch the Webex now!

    And check out to see what your school got for a grade!

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  • 2011-2012 PharmFree Scorecard Launched at AMSA Convention

    Despite the fact that only two medical schools ban sales representatives from campus, the majority of U.S. medical schools have implemented strong conflict-of-interest policies this year, according to the 2011-2012 American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard. Released today, the Scorecard finds that 102 of 152 medical schools (67%) now receive a grade of A or B for their policies governing pharmaceutical industry interaction with medical school faculty and students, compared with 79 last year.

    Using letter grades to assess schools’ performance in eleven potential areas of conflict, the AMSA PharmFree Scorecard ( offers a comprehensive look at the current and changing landscape of conflict-of-interest policies across American medical education, as well as more in-depth assessment of individual policies that govern industry interaction. Now in its fifth year, the Scorecard analyzes gifts and meals from industry to doctors, paid promotional speaking for industry, acceptance of free drug samples, interaction with sales representatives and industry-funded education. The participation rate was 98% of all eligible medical institutions.

    Of the 152 U.S. medical schools, 28 receive As (18%), 74 Bs (49%), 15 Cs (10%), 13 Ds (9%) and 9 Fs (6%). Thirteen respondents received a grade of “In Process” because their policies are currently under review or revision.
    For the fifth consecutive year, access of sales representatives remains a challenging area. Only two schools – University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and Florida State University College of Medicine – completely ban sales representatives from campus, giving them a perfect score in that domain. “Industry sales representatives are employed to increase the sales of their company’s drugs. Permitting their access to medical staff is not in the interests of patients or staff,” says Lee Shapley, AMSA PharmFree Scorecard director.

    Another challenge continues to be distribution of free pharmaceutical samples. Fifty-four schools have no significant policy restricting the distribution and use of samples though it has been shown that samples lead physicians to prescribe drugs that differ from their preferred drug choice, reducing their prescribing of unadvertised drugs in favor of advertised drugs. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry distributes some $18 billion per year in drug samples.

    Only 19 schools (13%) have model policy in terms of disclosure, requiring personnel to disclose past and present financial ties with industry (e.g., consulting and speaking agreements, research grants) on a publicly-available website and disclosing these relationships to patients. “This is a particularly interesting statistic because the upcoming implementation of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act will require public disclosure by industry of all payments and gifts so the public may learn of conflicts of interest before the schools,” continues Shapley.

    Highlights of the survey include:

    • Harvard Medical School received an ‘A’ this year. In 2008, Harvard had no policies and received an ‘F’ on the Scorecard. Due in large part to student activism over the past four years, the school now has one of the strongest policies in the country that includes a ban on speaker bureaus in addition to a strong gift, disclosure and samples policy.
    • Four schools significantly improved their scores from ‘F’s to ‘B’s. These schools are: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, University of South Carolina, Howard University and Morehouse School of Medicine.
    • All eight of the Texas medical schools scored at least a B. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, however, remains the lone A in the Lone Star state.
    • Approximately one quarter of U.S. medical schools improved their conflict-of-interest policies since the release of the 2010 PharmFree Scorecard.
    • More than two-thirds of medical schools now have grades of A or B (102 schools).
    • Schools with model policies on speaking arrangements have grown tremendously; 17 schools ban or severely restricting participation in speaker bureaus.

    Check out your school's grade at

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AMSA On Call is the official blog of the American Medical Student Association. Join us as we discuss the hottest issues in health care. 

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