No Free Lunches for Pitt Docs
Doctors are bombarded with inducements—from free lunches to complimentary samples—offered by companies selling drugs, medical devices, and services to health care providers.
What’s the harm in accepting a free slice of pizza or a fridge magnet with a company logo? Does it really influence the prescription a doctor writes? Docs are likely to say “No.” But companies that provide these goodies must think otherwise or they wouldn’t spend truckloads of cash attempting to build relationships with physicians through these and other tactics.
In spring 2008, Pitt instituted a groundbreaking policy on industry relationships, designed to uphold doctors’ ethical obligations to patients. It prohibits gifts and free lunches, imposes limits on consulting arrangements, and bars sales reps from patient areas.
Barbara Barnes, associate dean for continuing medical education in Pitt’s School of Medicine, cochaired the committee that drafted the policy along with pharmacist Randy Juhl, Pitt vice chancellor for research conduct and compliance and Distinguished Service Professor of Pharmacy. The policy enjoys strong support from administrative leaders, including Arthur S. Levine, Pitt senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine; UPMC President and CEO Jeffrey Romoff; and surgery professor Marshall Webster, CEO of the University of Pittsburgh Physicians.
Juhl observed, “The pharmaceutical industry should be rewarded for good drugs and good data on the drugs—not on the basis of who delivers the freshest bagel.”