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Overview of Conflict of Interest Policy with Commercial Entities

Society expects that health professionals and medical school personnel should act in ways that are unbiased, and in the best interests of individual patients and the wider community. Over the last decade, evidence has emerged that commercial interests, including pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, have at times exerted undue influence on physicians and other health professionals. This has led to the commitment by all Canadian medical schools to develop and implement a Conflict of Interest (COI) policy.

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) has a social accountability mandate to be responsive to the needs of the people and the communities of Northern Ontario with a focus on improving health care and health outcomes.  The first new medical school in Canada for the 21st century, NOSM also has a commitment to innovation. The success of distributed, community-engaged learning, NOSM’s distinctive model of education and research, depends on close collaboration with hospitals and health services, physicians and other health professionals, and the communities of Northern Ontario. In this context, this COI policy has been developed through an extensive collaborative process, and is anticipated to be consistent with the COI policies of partner clinical sites.

It is important to recognize that almost all NOSM clinical faculty members are stipendiary faculty who are primarily clinical service providers. Very few clinical faculty members have protected time away from clinical responsibilities to undertake education, research, or other academic activities. In this context, there will be a staged implementation of this policy to allow time for changes to occur in existing practices.

The intent of the COI policy is to enhance the professionalism of all NOSM faculty members, learners (including medical students and residents), and staff members in undertaking educational, research, clinical and other activities, while at the same time acknowledging and avoiding perceived, potential, and actual conflicts of interest. This policy provides a framework, which is designed to assist individuals and groups within and associated with NOSM to achieve success while ensuring the highest ethical and academic standards. Every individual, group, and organization has interests that affect decision-making, behaviours, and interactions with others. An “interest” is defined as the advantage or benefit of a person or group, or having a stake or involvement in an undertaking, especially a financial one (Oxford English Dictionary). There are many types of interests, including personal, professional, social, and financial interests, for example, and these interests can combine and intersect.  A conflict of interest exists in any situation where there is a potential divergence between an individual’s personal (or combined) interests and his or her obligations to the School such that an independent observer would reasonably question whether the individual’s behaviour or decisions are in any way motivated by considerations of personal interest, financial, or otherwise. A conflict of interest may be actual, perceived, or potential.

Conflicts that are thought to exist (e.g., perceived or potential) may be equally as damaging to NOSM as real or actual COIs. When a conflict of interest does occur, others should take care not to infer intent or guilt. Conflicts of interest may arise based on past practices and/or relationships. Dealing with COI should err on the side of transparency and disclosure.

A complete copy of the NOSM Board of Directors approved COI with Commercial Entities Policy - November 29, 2013 is available for viewing.

For further information, please email governance@nosm.ca​.


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