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Feature Institutional Corruption

Ending “corrupt” practices in medicine: Harvard conference report

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 15 May 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2618
  1. Jeanne Lenzer, associate editor, The BMJ
  1. jlenzer{at}

After a five year investigation into institutional corruption, experts want to get tough on drug companies and individuals, reports Jeanne Lenzer

Tougher sanctions for the illegal marketing of drugs, fewer fast tracked new drugs, and fines for companies whose drugs fail to live up to their stated benefits, were just some of the solutions for ending institutional corruption in medicine raised at a Harvard Law School conference this month.

The event was a culmination of a five year project at the university’s Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics and brought together people from different fields, including law and medicine, to investigate and find solutions for global institutional corruption.

Professor Lawrence Lessig, who led the project, defined institutional corruption as “any systemic influence” that undermines an institution’s goals and that “leads to a loss or weakening of the public trust in the institution.”

Institutional corruption in medicine was raised in several guises. Marc Rodwin, professor of law at Suffolk University Law School, Boston, called for greater scrutiny of pharmaceutical marketing, pointing to high levels of off-label prescribing in the US and internationally.

“21% of prescriptions in the US are for off-label uses, and for certain products it can go as high as 80%. About 70% of those [off-label] uses lack scientific support.”

Although manufacturers …

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