Stand at the entrance to Kansas University Medical Center on any given day near mealtime - breakfast, lunch, dinner, it doesn't really matter - and you'll see a seemingly endless stream of pizza and other food deliveries.
It's not patients trying to avoid hospital food. It's pharmaceutical companies offering up treats for doctors and other hospital staff. But those practices soon could end.
The primary accrediting body for medical schools came out last weekend in favor of implementing sweeping new conflict of interest policies at medical schools, and KU Medical Center is preparing to do the same by the end of the week.
"The KU School of Medicine wanted to take a leadership role, rather than reactive role, in this," said Dr. David Robbins, who led a two-year faculty study on pharmaceutical-med school interactions. That group recommended in January a policy that was similar to the one advanced by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
In addition to providing free lunches, pharmaceutical companies often provide drug samples, pay for travel and pay doctors to speak at their events.
"Such forms of industry involvement tend to establish reciprocal relationships that can inject bias, distort decision-making and create the perception among colleagues, students, trainees and the public that practitioners are being 'bought' or 'bribed' by industry," the report said.
According to the KUMC report, the pharmaceutical industry spends about $8,000 per doctor per year pushing their products - a number that has skyrocketed during the past 10 years. The new KUMC policy will ban all meals and gifts and severely limit free travel. Drug representatives can visit campus, but sample distributions will likely be handled by the hospital pharmacy.
While the current policy applies only to the School of Medicine, Robbins said it was his understanding that the policy was likely to go campuswide.
"The wind is blowing to have a similar policy across the entire campus," Robbins said. "But that's coming later."