BMC-BU joins elite group of Academic Medical Centers addressing negative impact of pharmaceutical marketing

Boston, MA, September 6, 2007. The decision by Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) to adopt strict guidelines to prevent conflicts of interest between doctors and pharmaceutical companies puts Massachusetts in a position to lead the nation to fix this troubling issue, the Prescription Project said today.  BMC and BUSM join a small number of elite academic medical centers that are taking leadership to stem the impact of medical marketing to physicians.

“BMC and BUSM recognize the harmful impact of pharmaceutical marketing – it undermines better patient care, increases our nation’s health care costs and ultimately decreases confidence in physician independence,” said Robert Restuccia, executive director of the Prescription Project. “We applaud their decision to adopt strict guidelines and it is more evidence that it can be done through leadership and commitment by physicians. But BMC and BUSM must be joined by others to successfully push back on the pharmaceutical industry’s $29 billion annual marketing budget.”

The Prescription Project evaluated the BMC-BUSM guidelines as part of its broader review of conflict of interest policies at leading academic medical centers across the country. The Project’s findings on exemplary policies and best practices at academic medical centers are contained in its report “Time for Change: Addressing Conflicts of Interest at Academic Medical Centers.”
The BMC-BUSM guidelines address each of the seven criteria that the Project recommends institutions address:

  • Gifts from industry to physicians and other personnel
  • Drug samples
  • Conflicts of interest among staff who make purchasing decisions
  • Industry support of continuing medical education (CME)
  • Sponsorship of physician travel
  • Speakers bureaus
  • Consulting and research grants

Several BMC-BUSM provisions should serve as model policies for other institutions. These include a complete ban on gifts from pharmaceutical companies; the prohibition on industry sales representative interaction with medical students, internists or residents; and a requirement that industry not directly support individual physician CME, but rather provide funds to a central office.

“With the adoption of these comprehensive policies, BMC and BUSM are now at the forefront of national efforts to end the corrosive influence of pharmaceutical marketing on medical institutions charged with the care of patients and the education and training of physicians,” said David Rothman, PhD, Associate Director of The Prescription Project and Director of the Institute for Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University. “The leadership, faculty and clinicians at BMC and BUSM have embraced important reforms that protect the public trust in the medical profession.”

Dr. Rothman co-authored a key article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January of 2006 calling on medical institutions to change their policies. The Prescription Project drew on those recommendations for its assessment of institutional conflict of interest policies.

The Prescription Project worked with BMC and BUSM during the development of these standards, and is now engaging a number of other academic medical centers across the country.

About The Prescription Project
The Prescription Project is led by Community Catalyst in partnership with the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. Created with The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Project promotes evidence-based prescribing and works to eliminate conflicts of interest in medicine caused by pharmaceutical marketing to physicians by working with academic medical centers, professional medical societies, public and private payers, and state and federal policymakers. For more information, please visit