Da Vinci ad con­tro­versy shows need to re­vamp con­flict poli­cies, U. of Illi­nois says

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —An­dis Robeznieks

Univer­sity of Illi­nois con­flict-ofin­ter­est poli­cies and pro­ce­dures need an over­haul to en­sure uni­for­mity across their var­i­ous cam­puses, ac­cord­ing to a re­port the school is­sued in re­sponse to a re­cent con­tro­versy in­volv­ing an ad for In­tu­itive Sur­gi­cal’s da Vinci ro­botic surgery sys­tem.

The re­port found no ap­par­ent in­di­vid­ual wrong­do­ing con­nected to the unau­tho­rized use of the Univer­sity of Illi­nois Hospi­tal and Health Sci­ences Sys­tem name and logo in a staff pic­ture that ap­peared in an ad en­dors­ing the da Vinci sys­tem, al­though it did point out pos­si­ble con­flicts of in­ter­est.

In­stead, the re­port fo­cused on the lack of proper pro­ce­dures to deal with such con­flicts. “There is a lack of own­er­ship of poli­cies and pro­ce­dures at the cam­pus-level, within the Col­lege of Medicine and amongst in­di­vid­ual staff,” Lawrence Schook, Univer­sity of Illi­nois vice pres­i­dent for re­search, said in the re­port. “With re­spect to the ac­tiv­i­ties and de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the Da Vinci advertisement, there is a lack of own­er­ship and ac­count­abil­ity for con­flict dis­clo­sure and man­age­ment.”

The re­port added that “there is no uni­for­mity of cer­tain re­lated poli­cies across the UI cam­puses” in Cham­paignUr­bana, Chicago and Spring­field. It noted how­ever, that “there were no fraud­u­lent at­tempts to hide any as­so­ci­a­tions be­tween fac­ulty and In­tu­itive Sur­gi­cal.” In in­ter­views and re­viewed emails, there was an “open di­a­logue re­gard­ing ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of ac­tiv­i­ties,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The ad ap­peared in the Jan. 19 New York Times Mag­a­zine and was harshly crit­i­cized by for­mer Beth Is­rael Dea­coness Med­i­cal Cen­ter CEO Paul Levy in his “Not Run­ning a Hospi­tal” blog. Levy ques­tioned the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the ad and the con­flicts of in­ter­est that might be in play. He also raised the is­sue of how the ad fit into new Sun­shine Act re­quire­ments man­dat­ing that drug and de­vice com­pa­nies dis- close pay­ments to physi­cians.

The re­port also chided the ad par­tic­i­pants. Em­ployee in­volve­ment in the da Vinci ad “rep­re­sents a con­flict of in­ter­est, and thus should have been dis­closed,” it stated. The re­port noted that none of the em­ploy­ees were com­pen­sated for the use of their like­nesses in the ad. Two physi­cians in­volved, how­ever, dis­closed that they ei­ther have re­ceived more than $5,000 from In­tu­itive or have eq­uity or in­vest­ments in the com­pany val­ued at more than $5,000.

The re­port de­tailed $4.65 mil­lion in pur­chase or­ders for In­tu­itive Sur­gi­cal equip­ment over the past three years, as well as a pend­ing $50,000 re­search agree­ment be­tween In­tu­itive Sur­gi­cal and Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago physi­cians.

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