Breaking news: just-published study shows that COI policies can…work!

One of the sources of frustration of toiling in the C&E field is the relatively small amount of data from the workplace on the efficacy of various program measures in actually reducing wrongdoing and otherwise promoting ethical conduct.   While unfortunate, this dearth of proof is not surprising; after all, what company would allow some or all of its employee population to serve as a control group for an “ethics experiment”?

But, as suggested by this article published yesterday in Science Daily, part of this proof gap has been filled by a recent study:  “Psychiatrists who are exposed to conflict-of-interest (COI) policies during their residency are less likely to prescribe brand-name antidepressants after graduation than those who trained in residency programs without such policies, according to a new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study is the first of its kind to show that exposure to COI policies for physicians during residency training — in this case, psychiatrists — is effective in lowering their post-graduation rates of prescriptions for brand medications, including heavily promoted and brand reformulated antidepressants.” The study will be published in the February issue of Medical Care.

Note that while evidently precedent setting in terms of medical COIs, there is other  data – from the behavioral ethics field –  showing that well-timed exposure to a rule or ethical standard can  impact behavior in desirable ways. That research – and the ways in which its teachings might form the basis of effective C&E communications strategies – is discussed here.

One Comment
  1. Scott Killingsworth 10 years ago

    In the specific context of COIs, I believe one of the best ways to get people to avoid COI situations is to expose them to the research showing how difficult it really is to be truly objective when you try to navigate a COI by yourself — to be the judge in your own trial, so to speak. Certainly, as a lawyer, it’s helpful to me to realize that there is no upside to judging my own case if there’s a potential COI: If I’m right, an objective third-party advisor will agree with me, and nothing is lost but a little time and effort. If I’m wrong, objective third-party advice could rescue me from a costly misstep.

    This type of behavioral-science evidence would seem to be just the sort of thing that would appeal to the intellectual leanings of typical med student or, especially, psychiatry Ph.D candidate: I wonder whether it would work as well with corporate directors.

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