Conflict of Interest Seminars and Lectures

Throughout the academic year, Dr. David J. Rothman gives lectures and leads seminars with the first-year medical students and third and fourth-year students respectively at VP&S.

The lecture orients first-year medical students to the various considerations in conflict of interest, be it financial or otherwise, drawing connections between instances of conflict of interest in the common culture and the kinds of conflicts of interest students may encounter in their time at medical school and beyond.

The seminars with third and fourth-year medical students allows students to redirect their attention from the theoretical instances of conflict of interest touched on in the lecture and apply them to the material conditions of their medical school education. Students are asked to consider how conflict of interest impacts their academic lives while also orienting them to skills for managing such conflicts.

A central theme for both the seminars and the lectures is the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (PPSA), which was a federal legislation passed in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act that requires pharmaceutical, medical device, and other health care product manufacturers to disclose nearly all payments to physicians and teaching hospitals. PPSA is an extraordinary experiment in transparency: Comprehensive data about physicians’ and medical institutions’ financial ties to industry are now a matter of public record, allowing us to ask–and finally answer–crucial questions about these ties. PPSA also has the potential to usher in far more effective procedures for controlling COI and promoting rational prescribing. Many stakeholders–foremost among them academic medical centers (AMCs), teaching hospitals, medical journals, and professional medical associations (PMAs)–have critical roles to play in achieving these ends, but to do so they must leverage the opportunities Sunshine affords. Given these high stakes, PPSA must be closely followed, its strengths utilized and its weaknesses addressed.