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Conflict of Interest Policies at Canadian Universities and Medical Schools: Some Lessons from the AMSA PharmFree Scorecard

Author(s): Mathieu, Ghislaine | Smith, Elise | Potvin, Marie-Josée | Williams-Jones, Bryn

Journal: BioéthiqueOnline
ISSN 1923-2799

Volume: 1;
Start page: 13;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: conflict of interest | medical school | policies | Canada | American Medical Student Association (AMSA)

Launched in 2007, the American Medical Students Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard is an annual ranking of conflict of interest (COI) policies at American medical centres; it focuses on COIs that may occur when medical education seems likely to be influenced by university-industry relationships, especially those with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. The PharmFree Scorecard has proven influential in stimulating changes in policy regarding the management of COI at American medical institutions, thus it provides a useful jumping off point for reflection on how and why medical education institutions in other countries – and for our purposes, Canada – should pay more attention to the appropriate identification and management of COI. The PharmFree Scorecard methodology examines a diversity of factors and interests that could influence medical education; as such, it is an interesting approach to analysing the COI policies of medical schools. To test its utility or applicability outside the US, we decided to apply the PharmFree Scorecard to the COI policies of the 16 Canadian universities hosting medical schools. Overall, Canadian institutions rank very poorly, especially in ensuring that education and training tools are provided to staff, students and faculty members to enable the identification and management of COI. However, differences between the US and Canadian medical education contexts, e.g., with regards to the governance and funding of universities, limit to some extent the direct applicability of the AMSA ranking. Canadian medical schools – and their host universities – nonetheless have much to learn from insights provided by the AMSA PharmFree Scorecard ranking, although they can and should go further in developing their own COI policies and procedures.
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