June 30, 2022

Limit drug company influence, say Harvard students

Will Harvard Medical School be able to keep its good resolutions?

Harvard Medical School studentsHarvard Medical School students want their world-famous institution to
disclose and limit the influence of drug companies, according to the
New York Times.

The publicity given to the student agitation is
not the first time this issue has surfaced. Several medical professors
are being investigated by the US Senate and the American Medical
Student Association recently gave Harvard an F-grade for how well it
monitors and controls drug company money.

The previous dean of the Medical School actually promoted industry
ties. Dr Joseph B. Martin sat on the board of the medical products
company Baxter International for 5 of the 10 years he led the medical
school, supplementing his university salary with up to US$197,000 a
year from Baxter. The new dean, Dr Jeffrey S. Flier, is less sympathetic and is trying to lessen the influence of industry ties.

This
could be difficult to sustain. The university’s endowment has lost 22%
of its value since last July and philanthropic donors are less generous
in the recession. Furthermore, a ban could cause faculty to leave.
About 1,600 of 8,900 professors and lecturers have reported that they
or a family member had a financial interest in a business related to
their teaching, research or clinical care. The reports show 149 with
financial ties to Pfizer and 130 with Merck.

Not all students at Harvard have joined the anti-industry bandwagon. A
smaller group of about 100 has signed a petition calling for “continued
interaction between medicine and industry at Harvard Medical School.”
Vijay Yanamadala, 22, said, “To say that because these industry sources
are inherently biased, physicians should never listen to them, is
wrong.” ~ New York Times, Mar 3