American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Policy briefs

From the February ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 2003 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

College gives partial support to drug marketing guidelines

ACP-ASIM has given qualified support to recently released federal guidelines that would curb unethical efforts to market drugs. It has also asked for clarification in some key areas.

Last October, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) released draft guidelines that would crack down on certain drug marketing practices, including recreational outings, expensive meals and lavish gifts to physicians.

In a Dec. 2 letter, College President Sara E. Walker, MACP, acknowledged that while partnerships between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry have resulted in medical breakthroughs, some interactions may be inappropriate.

Dr. Walker pointed out that the College discourages physicians from accepting free drug samples if those samples influence prescribing patterns, thereby driving up health care costs. She also highlighted the following College policies on interactions between physicians and drug makers:

  • The College "strongly discourages" physicians from accepting individual gifts, hospitality or trips from drug makers.

  • Physicians should not let consulting relationships cloud their clinical judgment, and should disclose all potential financial conflicts of interest.

  • Public and private providers of GME and CME, as well as medical professional societies, must be aware of the potential conflicts that industry support for educational programs can pose. They must also develop explicit policies to maintain control over program content.

The College also asked the OIG to clarify the types of educational program arrangements that would be considered unacceptable under the draft guidance. The letter is available online.

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HHS will take over J-1 visa waiver program

HHS announced that it is taking over the federal J-1 visa waiver program. The move is expected to shore up a program that was under fire last year. The College sent HHS a letter applauding the policy change.

The department will review applications from community health centers and hospitals for J-1 visa waiver candidates, a role previously filled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA announced last spring that it would no longer maintain that administrative function because it did not have the resources to screen potential applicants.

Typically, J-1 visa physicians are international medical graduates training in the United States who must return to their home countries for at least two years after training. Community health centers and other providers in underserved areas can apply to waive those requirements, in return for several years of primary care service from applicants.

The College's letter is available online.

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