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Institute of Medicine (IOM) Calls for “Far-Reaching” Changes to Prevent Medical Industry Gifts To Influence Patient Care and Research.

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The Wall Street Journal (4/28, Rockoff) reported,

"The Institute of Medicine [IOM] recommended Tuesday that doctors, medical schools, professional groups and drug makers make far-reaching changes to prevent industry gifts and payments from influencing patient care and research." According to the IOM’s proposals, "many now-common practices" should be eliminated, such as "meals, trips, or other gifts from companies" to physicians. The IOM’s recommendations, "contained in a 353-page report, come amid heightened concern and investigations – often led by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley – about the impact that industry gifts and payments have on doctors, medical schools, professional groups, and journals."

The New York Times (4/29, A17, Harris) reports that the IOM stated that these financial relationships and practices "create conflicts of interest, threaten the integrity of their missions and their reputations, and put public trust in jeopardy."

But, "among the most controversial of the institute’s recommendations is a plan to end industry influence over medical refresher courses," which "many medical societies and schools have defended…as necessary." Instead, the report "recommended that a different system be created within two years." The report also "calls on Congress to pass legislation that would require drug and device makers to publicly disclose all payments made to doctors."

In the Wall Street Journal (4/28) Health Blog, Jonathan Rockoff wrote that AMA board member Rebecca Patchin "touted the group’s own measures and stressed the need for transparent, ethical relationships."

The AP (4/29, Perrone) notes that "the report could give [lawmakers] more leverage in their push to untangle the knotty relationships between industry and physicians, which some say drive up the cost of medicine."

And, although the IOM’s "recommendations are not binding, many executives and physicians are likely to heed the advice to avoid scrutiny from lawmakers." Together, Sens. Grassley and Herb Kohl (D-WI), "are pushing a bill that would require companies to disclose all payments to physicians over $100." Meanwhile, some medical groups, including the American Medical Association, "have taken some steps" toward "phasing out company-paid trips to luxury resorts."

CQ HealthBeat (4/29, Norman) reports that the IOM also recommended that "doctors…not meet with drug maker sales representatives except by appointment and with an express invitation, and" that physicians decline drug samples "except for use for low-income patients." These practices "create unacceptable conflicts of interest, threaten the integrity of the medical profession and erode public trust while providing no meaningful benefits to patients or society," Bernard Lo, chairman of the IOM committee that wrote the report, stated.