Will pharma grants run dry at UMass?

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UMass Memorial Medical Center has taken a comprehensive approach to limit clinician-industry interaction. Restrictions on the ability to designate education funds for specific clinical topics will pose a challenge to grantees seeking pharmaceutical dollars, though.

The vendor relations policy, which like other institutional policies bans gifts and limits rep access, was adopted by the heath system in December and will be voted on by its board this month.

“This is really no knock on the pharmaceutical industry,” explained Doug Brown, SVP and general counsel of UMass Memorial Health Care, which oversees the teaching hospital. “We recognize there's a lot of incredible value that comes from some of those relationships and in fact clinical research and consulting relationships we in no way prohibit.”

But the policy could deal a blow to industry-supported education. Companies must submit grants to the hospital's foundation first and cannot earmark educational dollars to particular physicians or to a particular program within the department. That makes it tough for personnel to apply for funds through usual channels. “Most companies' processes for applying for educational funding require that a clinical topic or condition be specified,” wrote R. Van Harrison, PhD, in an email.

While the new code allows funding to specific clinical departments for general support of CME, these “are broad areas that are not adequately specific for the information requested on most applications for pharmaceutical funding of CME activities,” noted Harrison, who is director of the University of Michigan Office of CME. The UMass policy may result in the elimination of most support for CME activities from pharma. The health system's CEO told The Boston Globe that the hospital is fully prepared to make up for any loss in funding for education programs. 
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