The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) released its second annual PharmFree Scorecard report last week, which ranks medical schools’ policies on the presence of pharmaceutical reps on the campus. This year, AMSA worked with The Prescription Project to produce the report.
The 2008 Scorecard shows that about 13% of medical students in the US are studying at an A or B school. Out of the 150 US medical schools that were given the survey, seven received As (5%), 14 got Bs (9%), 4 got Cs (3%), 19 got Ds (13%), and 60 schools (40%) were given a grade of F. This includes 15 schools that received an F for the quality of the policy, or had no policy at all. There were 16 schools that declined to submit policies and 29 that did not respond to repeated attempts at contact.
To the students, monitoring the conflict-of-interest policies of the nation’s medical schools is important because “The public, policymakers and leaders within the medical profession are becoming increasingly worried about financial conflicts of interest influencing medical care and threatening the doctor-patient relationship,” according AMSA’s website. The student-run organization started the PharmFree campaign in 2002, with a mission “to advocate for evidence-based rather than marketing-based prescribing practices, global access to essential medicines, and the removal of conflicts of interest.” Students are making it clear that marketing doesn’t belong on their campuses.
Last fall, the student organization held an event called “National PharmFree Week,” during which the group partnered with the National Physicians’ Alliance, and the Prescription Project to show support for Senate Bill 2029: Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2007. The bill is designed “to provide for transparency in the relationship between physicians and manufacturers of drugs, devices, or medical supplies for which payment is made under Medicare, Medicaid, or SCHIP” by requiring regular reporting of such activities.
Recently, states like New York and Massachusetts are seeking to restrict or ban gifts from pharmaceutical companies to doctors. This news has people shaken up in the university- and biotech-rich Bay State, according a blog post on Health Care Renewal and a Forbes report describing unhappy biotechnology companies and even one pharma executive’s threat to leave the state.
With students and policy makers concerned about the influence pharmaceutical marketing on doctors’ prescribing practices, where does this leave the pharma reps and their business strategy? Will new tactics evolve, or will marketing directly to med students and doctors simply go away?