Chimonas says effective conflict of interest policies are needed to maintain public trust in the medical profession.
"It is important for patients to know and feel confident that the care they are getting isn't influenced by pharmaceutical marketing interests," she says. "When you go to your doctor you want to know that he is giving me this prescription or recommending this treatment because it's the best thing for me and not because he gets $50,000 a year to read a speech that was written for him by a pharmaceutical company, or because last night he got a $100 dinner paid for by another company."
"It is also important at a broader level that the public, all of us together, that we have trust in the medical profession. This is a profession that we all look up to. It's not just individual doctor that you look up to. It's the whole profession. We want to have confidence that the profession is regulating itself properly. We rely on the medical profession."
The study also analyzed whether a school's status, hospital affiliation, or source of funding influenced CCOI policy strength. Although hospital ownership and public or private status had no impact, medical schools with greater funding from the National Institutes of Health were more likely to have stricter policies than those with less funding.
To track progress and encourage stronger policies, IMAP has launched a new Conflict of Interest Policy Database that houses policies from medical schools across the country. The publicly accessible database allows anyone to search a school's CCOI policies, compare them with other institutions, identify where progress needs to be made, and learn best practices, Chimonas says.