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Conflicts of interest in the health sector: hospitals can and must act

It is time for hospitals as well as universities to act to prevent conflicts of interest and to ensure the independence necessary for the best care.

Conflicts of interest among healthcare professionals can and must be avoided. The Paris Public Hospitals (AP-HP) board for example commissioned a task force to put forward proposals for reducing the risks to teaching hospitals posed by the connections between healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies. This AP-HP report makes it clear that improved management of conflicts of interest in hospitals is necessary to build patient trust, and because conflicts of interest can result in additional costs.

The report recommends measures to root out and prevent conflicts of interest. It is important to stop hospital practitioners from taking on numerous commitments in addition to their paid occupation, thus ensuring that outside activities do not represent a disproportionate percentage of their income. The report also suggests replacing the hundreds of "service associations" financed directly by the firms with the AP-HP Research Foundation. Its main recommendations include keeping a closer watch on the presence of the firms' sales representatives in the hospital, and putting alternative mechanisms in place; financing "social events" from sources other than healthcare companies, and encouraging participation in professional congresses "under conditions of fairness, independence and transparency".

In short, this report faces facts and is not afraid to challenge entrenched habits and traditions.

There is a growing awareness of the harmful effects of conflicts of interest in the health sector. Medical and pharmacy students' associations are also challenging the overly cosy relations between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals, starting with students, and are campaigning to safeguard their independence
(Cf. Student associations drive pharmaceutical companies off campus).

Good news for patients!

©Prescrire 1 October 2017

"Tackling conflicts of interest" Prescrire Int 2017; 26 (186): 248. (Pdf, free).

Download the full review.
Pdf, free

See also:

Student associations
drive pharmaceutical
companies off campus
(July 2016)