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Statement Regarding Harvard Medical School's Conflict of Interest Policy

June 2008 — HMS Faculty Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment is rigorous and comprehensive and sets some of the highest standards among medical colleges. The School believes the disclosure process and financial prohibitions—in conjunction with the requirement that no more than 20 percent of a full-time faculty member's total professional effort may be directed to outside work—address the overwhelming majority of conflict concerns.

The School also believes that appropriate and well-managed interactions between industry and academic medicine are essential to our mission of alleviating human suffering caused by disease. HMS's conflict-of-interest policies seek to ensure that this productive collaboration is built on the foundation of academic independence and scientific objectivity.

Recently, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has raised questions about particular disclosures of Joseph Biederman, Timothy Wilens and Thomas Spencer, all practicing psychiatrists at Massachusetts General Hospital, an affiliate institution of HMS. As it has from the outset of Senator Grassley's inquiry, HMS will continue to cooperate with his review.

In accordance with HMS policy, the HMS Office of the Dean has referred the cases of the doctors in question to the Standing Committee on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment, which is charged with reviewing compliance with the policy. Based on its review, the standing committee will forward its findings and recommendations to the Office of the Dean for any further action that may be appropriate.

In the meantime, HMS will be taking the following steps to improve the current conflict-of-interest policies and their implementation:

  • The Medical School is evaluating its efforts to educate faculty members about the conflict-of-interest rules and will make any improvements that might be suggested as the result of this evaluation.
  • The School is reviewing its financial disclosure forms to determine their ease of use and comprehension. The results of this review will be used to determine whether the forms should be revised or clarified.
  • HMS will conduct interviews with randomly selected faculty members to review their disclosure forms and identify patterns that suggest a lack of clarity in the forms and policy or a need for further education.
  • HMS will review its conflict-of-interest policies, examining, among other things, (1) institutional conflict policy, (2) individual conflict policy and (3) special issues presented by clinical research.

HMS takes this issue seriously and will do all it can to ensure it is resolved fairly and equitably for all parties involved. For more information, please see the complete Faculty Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment.