Clinical care conflicts policy up for review

The proposed changes will affect researchers who work with human subjects.

Sarah Nienaber

The University of MinnesotaâÄôs Academic Health Center faculty and staff now have a chance to review the draft of a conflicts of interest policy that may have implications in high-risk fields such as research on human subjects.
The clinical care conflicts of interest policy is an appendix to the University-wide policy and was originally released and implemented in early August.
The policyâÄôs addition, referred to as Appendix A, applies to University faculty members or students involved in clinical care of patients. It is open for public review and commentary through Oct. 29. Lynn Zentner, director at the Office of Institutional Compliance, and Frank Cerra, senior vice president of the AHC and dean of the Medical School, heard feedback that the public didnâÄôt have a chance to review the policy, leading to this round of open commentary.
In an e-mail addressed to all faculty and staff of the AHC, Cerra explained that after further input from the public, the clinical care policy will be revised as needed to address any concerns raised or recommendations made during the commentary period.
Zentner stressed that the publicâÄôs commentary is thoroughly read and reviewed after the review session closes and added she feels personally obligated to review the comments and hear what the public has to say.
The policy enforces tough standards of facultyâÄôs relationships with outside businesses and objectivity.
After the open commentary period wraps up Oct. 29, any and all commentary will be reviewed and considered by the committee, which consists of various faculty members.
Zentner said that the policy protects clients of the University from receiving poor clinical treatment due to special interests of their caretakers.
She used a veterinarian who works for an outside drug company as an example. The veterinarians could hypothetically use a harmful drug on animal patients because of their outside interests.
The policy outlaws conflicts of interest actions to two groups of people. One of those groups covers individuals whose expertise and responsibilities involve higher risk activities, such as research on human subjects, clinical health care and technologycommercialization.
Cerra explained that the clinical appendix of the University-wide policy raises the standard for those it concerns.
âÄúI think the bar definitely goes higher but I think itâÄôs important to understand that there are other areas that this applies to,âÄù he said. âÄúThe same standards should apply wherever clinical work is being done.âÄù
Cerra explained that critics of the clinical care policy appendix wonder why it hasnâÄôt been made into a policy all its own, which in his point of view could be the next step.
The recently revised University-wide policy, which was under public review earlier this year, prompted more than 150 comments.