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

The vendor relations policy, which like other institutionalpolicies bans gifts and limits rep access, was adopted by the heath system inDecember 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 incrediblevalue that comes from some of those relationships and in fact clinical researchand consulting relationships we in no way prohibit.”

But the policy could deal a blow to industry-supportededucation. Companies must submit grants to the hospital’s foundation first andcannot earmark educational dollars to particular physicians or to a particularprogram within the department. That makes it tough for personnel to apply forfunds through usual channels. “Most companies’ processes for applying foreducational 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 specificclinical departments for general support of CME, these “are broad areas thatare not adequately specific for the information requested on most applicationsfor pharmaceutical funding of CME activities,” noted Harrison, who is directorof the University of Michigan Office of CME. The UMass policy may result in theelimination of most support for CME activities from pharma. The health system’sCEO told The Boston Globe that the hospital is fully prepared to make up forany loss in funding for education programs.