Minnesota Health System Removes All Gifts From Pharmaceutical Companies

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SMDC Health System, which operates four hospitals and17 clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin, recently removed all promotional giftsfrom pharmaceutical companies from the facilities -- a move that"underscored SMDC's decision to join the growing movement to ban gifts todoctors from drug companies," the AP/Washington Times reports. SMDC -- which collected18,718 gifts, such as pens, notepads, coffee mugs and other items with logosfor medications -- plans to send the items to a health system in Cameroon.

In addition, SMDC implemented a comprehensive conflict-of-interest policy thatbans gifts from pharmaceutical companies and limits access to physicians andother health care professionals by company sales representatives. KennethIrons, chief of community clinics for SMDC, said, "We just decided for alot of reasons we didn't want to do that any longer."

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According to a study published in the Journal of the American MedicalAssociation in 2006, gifts from the pharmaceutical industry tophysicians can influence medical decisions. In response, Pew Charitable Trusts launched the Prescription Project, which seeks to implementrecommendations in the study designed to prevent such conflicts of interest.

Marcia Hams, assistant director of the project, said that she hopes otherhealth systems follow the example of SMDC. Hams said, "This seems like a prettyaggressive way to kick off a policy," adding, "It sends an importantmessage, I think, for how a strict policy can be implemented in an effectiveway."

Ken Johnson, a spokesperson for the PharmaceuticalResearch and Manufacturers of America, said, "I've never seen nor heard of asystematic roundup of pens and coffee mugs before," adding, "It's abit draconian" (AP/Washington Times, 1/20).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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