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Medical ethics: a U.S. university refuses gifts from pharmaceutical companies

Healthy relations between health professionals and pharmaceutical companies should be taught at university, by example.

Beginning in their student days, health professionals all over the world are accustomed to accepting gifts from healthcare companies and to attending corporate-sponsored events, even though they are aware of the bias and that these events serve the interests of the company concerned.

In October 2006 Stanford University in the USA adopted a strict code of conduct governing its relations with companies in the healthcare industry.

Gifts are no longer accepted, not even "small" ones such as gadgets, pens, drug samples, sundries or meals. Pharmaceutical companies’ sales reps and advisors are banned from treatment premises unless they have an appointment, and are admitted only for the purposes of training in the use of machinery and equipment. Presentations of new drugs are authorised solely for the hospital pharmacy or drug committees, on the basis of a single visit. Pharmaceutical companies are no longer allowed to make grants directly to students: university departments select the students and decide upon the research topics. And so on.

In the field of education, many habits, good and bad, are learned early on, in particular by following the example of the teaching staff. Which French university will be the first to decide not to "do what everyone else does", and to cut the umbilical cord with pharmaceutical companies?

©Prescrire March 2007

Source: "Cadeaux des firmes : interdits à l’université de Stanford" Rev Prescrire 2007 ; 27 (281) : 221-222.

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