Objectives: To assess the quantity and evaluate the quality of policies and curricula focusing on conflicts of interests (COI) at medical schools across Germany.
Design: Cross-sectional study, survey of medical schools, standardised web search.
Setting: Medical schools, Germany.
Participants: 38 German medical schools.
Interventions: We collected relevant COI policies, including teaching activities, by conducting a search of the websites of all 38 German medical schools using standardised keywords for COI policies and teaching. Further, we surveyed all medical schools’ dean’s offices. Finally, we adapted a scoring system for results we obtained with 13 categories based on prior similar studies.
Main outcomes and measures: Presence or absence of COI-related policies, including teaching activities at medical school. The secondary outcome was the achieved score on a scale from 0 to 26, with high scores representing restrictive policies and sufficient teaching activities.
Results: We identified relevant policies for one medical school via the web search. The response rate of the deans’ survey was 16 of 38 (42.1%). In total, we identified COI-related policies for 2 of 38 (5.3%) German medical schools, yet no policy was sufficient to address all COI-related categories that were assessed in this study. The maximum score achieved was 12 of 26. 36 (94.7%) schools scored 0. No medical school reported curricular teaching on COI.
Conclusions: Our results indicate a low level of action by medical schools to protect students from undue commercial influence. No participating dean was aware of any curriculum or instruction on COI at the respective school and only two schools had policies in place. The German Medical Students Association and international counterparts have called for a stronger focus on COI in the classroom. We conclude that for German medical schools, there is still a long way to go.