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MU Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine receives a top ethics rating

Apr. 21, 2013 @ 11:08 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine has received a top score in the arena of ethics challenges when dealing with pharmaceutical companies.

The "A" was awarded by the American Medical Student Association's PharmFree ScoreCard 2013. It was one of only a quarter of the United States and Canada's 158 medical schools, and the only medical school in West Virginia, to receive the top distinction.

Dr. Joseph I. Shapiro, dean of the School of Medicine, said he was pleased the organization recognized the school's effort to provide medical education "free from undue marketing influence."

"I'm proud of our students, faculty and staff that they are cognizant of this potentially rocky climate here and that they are maintaining a separation from this temptation. That's a good thing."

Shapiro said medical students began working with the American Medical Association to produce the first PharmFree ScoreCard in 2007, an effort to bring to light issues regarding pharmaceutical companies and potential ethical challenges. The scorecard uses letter grades to assess schools' performances as they relate to conflict-of-interest policies in American medical education. It analyzes gifts and meals from industry to doctors, paid promotional speaking for the industry, acceptance of free drug samples, interaction with sales representatives and industry-funded education.

"Largely because of my predecessors, we've developed a set of rules about how our faculty, students and staff interact with device and pharmaceutical manufacturers," Shapiro said. "But, let me be very clear, most med schools have a policy like this, but they don't enforce it particularly well."

Shapiro said the "really uncomfortable relationship" between companies and practitioners has been going on for as long as he can remember, and was pleased that Marshall's program was recognized as abstaining from those potentially unethical, influential relationships.

"Our School of Medicine has been, and is, working diligently to ensure our relationships are appropriate with that industry and that we are transparent in all that we do," he said. "And, we're pleased that work was recognized."

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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