UC Davis Health System bans receipt of gifts from all vendors
In an extension of its recently passed prohibition against the acceptance of meals, gifts, samples and other items from pharmaceutical representatives, UC Davis Health System has approved a policy banning its employees from accepting gifts from any vendor.
The new policy, which went into effect July 1, defines a vendor as "any representative or distributor of a manufacturer or company who visits for the purpose of soliciting, marketing or distributing products or information regarding the use of medications, products, equipment and/or services."
"Gifts," as defined by the policy, include payments, free or discounted items, medical samples for personal use, food and travel. Specific examples are pens, notepads, textbooks, meals and payment for attendance at a meeting.
"We must avoid the appearance of favoritism in all of our dealings on behalf of the university," said Allan D. Siefkin, Chief Compliance Officer for UC Davis Health System. "Research has shown that certain health-care vendor activities, such as providing gifts, even of nominal value, may affect behavior and give the appearance of favoritism."
Applies to all employees
The prohibition against accepting gifts applies to all employees, even those not in a position to make purchasing or contracting decisions.
— Allan D. Siefkin, UC Davis Chief Compliance Officer
In recognition of the policy, the American Medical Student Association gave the UC Davis School of Medicine a grade of "A" on the association's 2007 PharmFree Scorecard. UC Davis was one of only six medical schools to receive the "A" grade. The scorecard, which ranks medical schools according to their pharmaceutical influence policies, is the first of its kind and provides students with important new information about their medical school choices.
The PharmFree campaign encourages medical schools and academic medical centers to develop policies that limit the access of pharmaceutical company representatives to their campuses and prohibit medical students and physicians from accepting gifts of any kind from these representatives.
Health system policy
UC Davis Health System's policy includes some exclusions to its definition of a gift. Among them are items provided for a discount or free as part of a university contract, and prizes or awards from genuine competitions, such as competitive research grants. Other exemptions are free admission, refreshments and similar, non-monetary benefits provided to an individual during a training session for the purpose of training that individual on the vendor's product. An individual would be allowed to accept the same kind of nominal benefits at an entire event in which he or she gives a speech, participates in a panel or seminar, or provides a similar service.
The policy allows vendors to provide gifts that support the mission of the university, such as providing food for conferences, payment for educational travel and samples for evaluation, but the Department of Health Sciences Advancement is responsible for processing these gifts. For example, to provide free food or pay for educational travel, vendors may donate funds to a unit of the university, via Health Sciences Advancement, to support meetings. Continuing Medical Education funds will be managed according to national continuing education accrediting body conflict-of-interest standards, even when the meetings are not accredited continuing education programs.
Vendors are still allowed to make sales calls under the new policy, but unsolicited, on-site visits are not permitted. Sales calls may be made only at the invitation of appropriate university personnel or after an appointment has been made. On-site sales calls must occur only in non-patient-care areas. Exceptions are allowed when it is determined that there is a compelling need for the visit to occur in a patient-care area.
Complying with HIPAA
For visits in patient-care areas, the vendor must comply with patient privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Vendors may not access patient information during visits unless the patient has given written authorization to do so.
In November 2006, the health system approved a new policy that bans employees and students from accepting free drug samples, food, beverages, pens, notepads and other marketing items from representatives of pharmaceutical manufacturers. However, implementation of the ban was delayed until July 1, the beginning of the health system's fiscal year. In the meantime, health system officials decided to extend the ban to all vendors.
The ban concerning pharmaceutical companies includes a prohibition against sales representatives serving in preceptorships at the health system. Preceptor-ships allow drug company employees, for a fee, to accompany doctors during patient visits, providing the opportunity for the representatives to deepen their relationships with physicians.