Corporate Compliance

Is this a conflict of interest?

Compliance Monitor, June 15, 2007

Q: Is it a conflict of interest for employees who prescribe medication or provide care to accept anything from pharmaceutical representatives?

A: Accepting gifts or other benefits from drug representatives does create a conflict situation. The conflict arises since the employee has accepted something of value from the drug representative, which could influence the employee's ordering of a pharmaceutical or device. Just because the employee has accepted a gift from the representative however, does not necessarily mean that the employee should be prohibited from recommending products from the pharmaceutical company. Healthcare organizations should establish policies on what gifts can be accepted and require notices if a gift is accepted. The gift should be evaluated to make sure it is de minimis in nature, so that the gift would not influence the person ordering the product. Also, by providing notice to someone else in the organization, the person to whom the notice is provided can evaluate whether the gift will influence the employee's ordering of products or services. A safe approach would be to prohibit all gifts from companies from whom products or services are ordered. However, most organizations would find such a standard to be too restrictive. Thus, healthcare organizations should develop a balanced approach, through a policy, that helps establish parameters around what gifts are acceptable.

Thanks to Robert A. Wade, a partner at Baker & Daniels LLP in South Bend, IN, for answering this question.

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