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National PharmFree Week: Much to Celebrate!

By Chris Manz
Chair, PharmFree Steering Committee

This past year has seen a number of notable advances in medical center conflict of industry policies. Two years ago, PharmFree students at Harvard School of Medicine demanded that their school develop a rigorous policy for regulating relationships between industry and physicians at its hospitals. Their efforts bore fruit a few months ago when Harvard announced its new conflict of interest policy that, among other things, makes Harvard one of the few medical schools to bar faculty from participating on speakers bureaus.

University of Michigan also upped the bar this year by establishing a policy that bars industry funding of continuing medical education. These developments belie a groundswell in new policies at schools across the country which we look forward to documenting when the 2010 AMSA PharmFree Scorecard is released next month.

Earlier this year, we saw the passage of the Physicians Payment Sunshine Act, a bill long championed by PharmFree that makes transparent payments that industry makes to physicians. But while the law does not take affect for a few years, a recent ProPublica report used currently available industry payment databases from just a handful of companies, documenting $250 million in payments to 17,000 physicians across the country. The stunning magnitude of these payments underscore that there is much work to be done. But PharmFree is on it.

In addition to advocacy for robust conflict of interest policies, medical students are using National PharmFree Week as an opportunity to call on their representatives in Congress and ask them to ban Pay for Delay deals. These collusive deals, where a brand name pharmaceutical company pays a generic company to keep generic competition from entering the market and lowering prices, delay access to affected drugs by an average of 17 months, costing American patients an estimated $35 billion over the next decade. Want to help? Take 2 minutes to write your Congressman right now! Just click here.

As our tagline says, PharmFree promotes evidence-based prescribing, pharmaceutical innovation and access to medicines. This week, we highlight the PharmFree students that continue to push their institutions to implement conflict of interest policies that restore the integrity of the medical practice and students calling on Congress to put patients first and ensure affordable access to medicines.

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