Medical schools in the USA should reject offers of free gifts and food, travel and ghostwriting services from drugmakers in order to avoid conflicts of interest, according to a major new report.

The study, which was commissioned in 2006 by the Association of American Medical Colleges' executive council, has made these recommendations to its 129 medical school members, noting that “an effective and principled partnership between academic medical centres and various health industries is critical”. It adds that “appropriate management” of this partnership “is crucial to ensure that it remains principled, thereby sustaining public trust in the proposition that both partners are fundamentally dedicated to the welfare of patients and the improvement of public health”.

The AAMC report goes on to note that “over recent decades, medical schools and teaching hospitals have become increasingly dependent on industry support of their core educational missions”. This reliance raises concerns because such support, including gifts, “can influence the objectivity and integrity of academic teaching”.

In addition to bans on gifts, food and travel bans, the report recommended that medical schools should “strongly discourage participation by their faculty in industry-sponsored speakers’ bureaus,” in which doctors are paid to promote medicines. It also advocates the setting-up of a centralised systems or “alternative ways to manage pharmaceutical sample distribution that do not carry the risks to professionalism with which current practices are associated”.

The AAMC study concludes by praising new policy directions being implemented in many medical schools “that better manage, and when necessary, prohibit, academic-industry interactions that can inherently create conflicts of interest and undermine standards of professionalism”.

Pfizer and Eli Lilly’s chief executives Jeffrey Kindler and Sidney Taurel, both members of the task force that commissioned the report, said that they oppose a recommendation to restrict participation by medical school faculty members in speaker bureaus. They said that “these types of programmes, which are subject to clear regulations regarding their content, can be worthwhile educational activities."