UCF med school scores well on conflict-of-interest policies

University of Central Florida's new medical school scored a coup on Wednesday, when it earned high marks for its conflict-of-interest policies from a national organization of medical students.

The ratings were part of the PharmFree Scorecard, an evaluation of conflict-of-interest policies at the 152 medical colleges and colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States.

UCF's College of Medicine earned a B on the scorecard, and placed seventh among the schools receiving that grade. As a new medical school, that was notable to the scorecard's creators.

"We were particularly impressed that this new school took the time to focus on conflict of interest and put in place very good policies," said Tim Anderson, the scorecard director and third-year medical student at Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Produced by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and the Pew Prescription Project, the scorecard uses letter grades to assess medical schools' performances in 11 potential areas of conflict, including gifts and meals from industry to doctors, paid promotional speaking for industry, acceptance of free drug samples, interaction with sales representatives and industry-funded education.

Florida State University's College of Medicine also earned a mention from the organizers because it was one of only two schools to receive a perfect score for limiting access of sales reps to faculty.

University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine earned the highest grade in the state, with an A. UCF, University of Florida College of Medicine and FSU's medical school all earned B's, while University of South Florida's and Nova Southeastern's medical schools earned C's.

Florida International University, which opened its medical school in 2009, did not have a policy or faculty in place in time for the scorecard, according to the medical students' group.

At UCF, officials were excited by the ranking. "I am pleased that we, as a new medical school, have been recognized for creating a strong conflict-of-interest policy. It is particularly exciting to be ranked higher than all of my alma maters," said Dr. Deborah German, UCF's vice president for medical affairs and the founding dean of the college.

German earned her undergraduate degree at Boston University, which was ranked 14th among schools receiving a B, while Harvard — where she attended medical school — placed 29th.

UCF's conflict-of-interest policies were drafted by a team of faculty members that included Dr. Diane Davey, Jeanette Schreiber, Dr. Lori Boardman, Dr. Ralph Caruana, Debopam Chakrabarty, Alex Cole, Diane Jacobs, Dr. Becky Moroose, Mark Muller, Dr. Loren Nelson, Audrey Pike and Scott Sumner.

Although more than half of the medical schools in the country earned an A or B — up from 30 percent last year — the medical students' group says that conflict-of-interest policies are a work in progress. Many of the nation's medical schools have started focusing on their ties to pharmaceutical companies only after the students' group began publicizing the issue and its scoreboard in 2007.

Last year, medical students at Harvard University made headlines when they protested their school's conflict-of-interest policy.

"No one has the perfect policy yet," said Chris Manz, a third-year medical student at Duke University and national chair of the American Medical Student Association's Pham Free campaign. "There's much work to be done to make sure that our future physicians are being taught at schools that are free of conflict of interest."

To look at the scorecard, go to amsascorecard.org and search by state.

Linda Shrieves can be reached at lshrieves@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5433.

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