Johns Hopkins to ban gifts, drug samples

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Johns Hopkins announced the approval of a policy that will severely limit industry interaction with its school of medicine.

Industry-funded meals, drug samples and gifts to individuals will be off limits to Johns Hopkins faculty and staff under the policy, effective July 1, 2009. The drug sample provision will become effective next year – on July 1, 2010 – so that “affected providers and clinics can make the needed changes,” according to the policy.

“Gifts, even small gifts, carry an implied expectation of reciprocity,” the policy stated. “Accepting a coffee mug or mouse pad from a pharmaceutical sales representative may not consciously affect one's decision-making,” but the presence of the gift, or the interaction with the giver, could cloud a physician's judgment, the policy concluded, citing research from the Annual Review of Neuroscience.

The policy makes an exception for certain unrestricted gifts, which are deposited into a departmental account and distributed at the school's discretion. Departments will be required to report all funds received from industry, and how those funds were spent, the policy stated.

Johns Hopkins' gift ban follows similar initiatives at several other academic institutions, including Stanford and the University of Pittsburgh. The University of Minnesota is currently reviewing a comparable policy.

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