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  • GSK Takes a Stand on Payments to Physicians…Who’s Next?

    GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that it will make big changes in its marketing practices by no longer paying physicians to promote its products. It is the first (and hopefully not the last) major pharmaceutical company to address some questionable, and unfortunately popular, marketing techniques that have the potential to create conflicts of interest for physicians. Under its new policy, GSK will no longer pay physicians to speak on its behalf to medical professionals at conferences and other events. Its compensation model for pharmaceutical sales representatives will also move away from one focused on physicians’ prescribing habits.

    Though this policy change is significant, it is part of a growing trend to improve transparency of financial relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical and medical device companies. This movement is evident in federal policy--the Physician Payment Sunshine Act’s Open Payments website will publicly disclose industry payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals starting in September 2014--and in the policies being adopted at medical schools and teaching hospitals. Just last week our partner at The Pew Charitable Trusts released best practices in conflict-of-interest policies.

    GSK’s announcement will send ripples through the entire pharmaceutical industry, and we hope that other major companies will also end the ...

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  • Moving COI Policies Up A Notch: New Recommendations from an Expert Task Force

    It’s no secret that medical device and pharmaceutical companies have had long-standing relationships with medical schools and teaching hospitals. And although fruitful collaborations with these companies, primarily for research and collaboration, should continue, some of these relationships have gone too far. Although many schools have significantly strengthened their conflict-of-interest policies that govern these relationships, industry still brings biased information into our nation’s medical education training grounds—places that should be steeped in evidence-based learning. One recent survey of medical schools, for example, found that up to half of medical students and residents reported receiving personal gifts from pharmaceutical companies, even in schools graded highly on the AMSA Scorecard.
    Conflict-of-interest policies, guidelines for how industry can (or cannot) interact with an institution, are key to preventing this industry overreach. There is evidence demonstrating that COI policies at medical schools can, in fact, impact prescribing behavior. One study showed that graduates from schools with strong COI policies prescribed antidepressants more rationally than graduates with weaker or no COI policies. 
    Today, The Pew Charitable Trusts, in partnership with an expert task force of leaders from academic medicine and other partners, including AMSA, released a set of 15 best practices for medical ...

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  • Why I'm Opting Out of the AMA Masterfile

    It’s hard for me to believe that I’ll have the privilege of calling myself someone’s doctor in a few short months. As a graduating medical student, I look back on my education and see that it was driven by a spark shared by all in all AMSA members: the fervent hope to help my future patients. And it’s precisely this hope that drives me to pledge to opt out of drug company access to my future prescribing information. I urge you to join me.

    When I started medical school, I had no idea that pharmaceutical companies know exactly what medicines each doctor prescribes to his or her patients. I was even more surprised to learn that this capacity is enabled by the American Medical Association through the sale of a database called the “Masterfile.” All medical students and doctors are automatically enrolled in the Masterfile—regardless of whether or not we are AMA members. Each year, the AMA makes more than $40 million selling this information, which allows pharmaceutical companies to link prescribing records to doctors’ identities. The result is targeted marketing pitches, often designed to promote more expensive medicines that aren't necessarily more effective. 

    The spooky nature of being watched by ...

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  • Release of AMSA PharmFree Scorecard!

    Tomorrow is the launch of the 2013 AMSA PharmFree Scorecard! Join us in person or via Webcast. This would be a great chapter event!

    April 9, 2013: Launch of the 2013 AMSA PharmFree Scorecard 12-1pm (EST)
    Join National Physicians Alliance & AMSA Online Webcast or Live In-Person
    The AMSA Scorecard: The State of Medical School Conflict-of-Interest Policies and Cultivating a New Era of Effective Change

    Georgetown University Medical Center, Med-Dental Building, Room SW107,
    3900 Reservoir Road, NWSE408, Washington, DC 20057


    Reshma Ramachandran, PharmFree Fellow
    American Medical Student Association

    Daniel Carlat, MD
    Director of the Pew Prescription Project

    RSVP to attend this live event in-person

    Register to participate in this live online webcast

    This event offered as part of the Partnership to Advance Conflict-free Medical Education. This partnership and related materials were made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program which is funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin. Learn more at

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  • Graduating Medical Students Tell the AMA, “I’m Opting Out”

    On Wednesday, April 10, graduating medical students will tell the American Medical Association (AMA) that they are opting out of the AMA Physician Masterfile and that they do not want their personal and prescribing information sold to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. National Opt Out Day, sponsored by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), hopes to rally hundreds of fourth year medical students.

    The AMA Physician Masterfile was established by the AMA in 1906 as a record keeping device supporting membership and mailing activities. The Physician Masterfile includes current and historical data for more than 1.4 million physicians, residents and medical students in the United States. Today, sales of the AMA Physician Masterfile totals more than $40 million per year and over 20 percent of their annual revenue.

    “The AMA should not be selling this data to pharmaceutical and medical device companies for the purpose of tracking physicians’ prescribing habits to devise directed marketing strategies,” Reshma Ramachandran, AMSA PharmFree Fellow. “Information from the AMA Physician Masterfile should only be used for research purposes to benefit our patients.”

    “We want our members – the nation’s future physicians – to understand what this information is being used for so they ...

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