Context: Institutional academic-industry relationships have the potential of creating institutional conflicts of interest. To date there are no empirical data to support the establishment and evaluation of institutional policies and practices related to managing these relationships.
Objective: To conduct a national survey of department chairs about the nature, extent, and consequences of institutional-academic industry relationships for medical schools and teaching hospitals.
Design, setting, and participants: National survey of department chairs in the 125 accredited allopathic medical schools and the 15 largest independent teaching hospitals in the United States, administered between February 2006 and October 2006.
Main outcome measure: Types of relationships with industry.
Results: A total of 459 of 688 eligible department chairs completed the survey, yielding an overall response rate of 67%. Almost two-thirds (60%) of department chairs had some form of personal relationship with industry, including serving as a consultant (27%), a member of a scientific advisory board (27%), a paid speaker (14%), an officer (7%), a founder (9%), or a member of the board of directors (11%). Two-thirds (67%) of departments as administrative units had relationships with industry. Clinical departments were more likely than nonclinical departments to receive research equipment (17% vs 10%, P = .04), unrestricted funds (19% vs 3%, P < .001), residency or fellowship training support (37% vs 2%, P < .001), and continuing medial education support (65% vs 3%, P < .001). However, nonclinical departments were more likely to receive funding from intellectual property licensing (27% vs 16%, P = .01). More than two-thirds of chairs perceived that having a relationship with industry had no effect on their professional activities, 72% viewed a chair's engaging in more than 1 industry-related activity (substantial role in a start-up company, consulting, or serving on a company's board) as having a negative impact on a department's ability to conduct independent unbiased research.
Conclusion: Overall, institutional academic-industry relationships are highly prevalent and underscore the need for their active disclosure and management.