Are hospitals who limit ties with drug companies at a competitive disadvantage?

Doctors have been coming under increasing scrutiny for their relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

Many hospitals and medical schools have outright banned any involvement of their physician staff with drug companies. This isn’t a contentious issue most of the time.

But a recent case at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital raised some eyebrows. Apparently, an asthma specialist was so dependent on drug company money, that he chose to quit the hospital instead. According to the Boston Globe, “Out of thousands of US doctors hired by drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline to talk about its products, [this physician] was the highest paid during a three-month period last year, the company recently disclosed: He made $99,375 for giving 40 talks to other physicians last April, May, and June, almost one every other day.”

One talk every other day? That’s a lot of lucrative speaking gigs. In fact, he’s on the speaking panel of six different pharmaceutical companies.

But now, the Brigham lost an acclaimed physician — who likely would have no trouble finding work at another hospital with a less stringent conflict of interest policy.

In a lot of ways, this is similar to the college recruiting of athletes. Schools that have rigorous academic requirements put themselves at a competitive disadvantage athletically. The same could be said for hospitals, who risk driving away doctors by limiting their ties with drug companies.

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