Drug Company-Sponsored Research at VA Medical Facilities

HRD-86-56: Published: Apr 24, 1986. Publicly Released: Jun 3, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed drug companies' medical research activities in Veterans Administration (VA) facilities. The review included: (1) examining VA research involvement with drug companies; (2) determining whether the VA practice of using drug company donations for medical research violates federal prohibitions against an agency supplementing its appropriations; (3) reviewing VA procedures concerning financial controls imposed on investigators conducting such research; (4) determining whether VA recovers all costs of performing drug company-sponsored studies; and (5) reviewing VA investigations of allegations involving drug company-funded research at the VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

GAO found that, during fiscal year (FY) 1984, drug companies provided at least $26.6 million to support at least 715 VA medical research studies. VA believes that drug companies' support of research meets the agency's primary mission of patient care and helps VA satisfy its statutory mandate to conduct a medical research program. GAO found that: (1) VA has the authority to accept donations and to use donated funds as directed by the donor when the use is for the benefit of veterans; (2) about 35 percent of the drug companies' donations are directly deposited in the General Post Fund and administered by the medical center at which the research will be conducted; (3) VA laws and regulations do not state that the agency should recover costs incurred for research studies sponsored by outside organizations; and (4) 5 of the 13 allegations that medical researchers at the Long Beach Medical Center accepted unauthorized remuneration from drug companies or conducted unauthorized research studies were sustained. GAO also found that VA guidelines require that: (1) all payments connected with medical research studies be made to the General Post Fund or an outside institution approved by a VA medical center research and development committee; and (2) the directors of VA medical centers instruct outside sponsors, including drug companies, to make donations for the General Post Fund directly payable to VA.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA Circular 10-86-85 was issued on July 24, 1986 by the Chief Medical Director, to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct the Chief Medical Director to revise VA guidelines to require VA medical center directors to inform outside sponsors of research, including drug companies, before studies are initiated in VA medical facilities, that the studies will be performed by VA investigators as part of their official VA duties.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA Circular 10-86-85 was issued on July 24, 1986, by the Chief Medical Director, to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct the Chief Medical Director to revise VA guidelines to require VA medical center directors to inform outside sponsors of research, including drug companies, before studies are initiated in VA medical facilities, that federal law prohibits all VA employees from receiving compensation from outside the agency for services performed in connection with their official VA duties and prohibits anyone from providing such compensation.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: VA Circular 10-86-85 was issued on July 24, 1986, by the Chief Medical Director, to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should direct the Chief Medical Director to revise VA guidelines to require VA medical center directors to inform outside sponsors of research, including drug companies, before studies are initiated in VA medical facilities, that all payments in connection with the studies should be made to the General Post Fund or an outside institution approved by a VA medical center research and development committee, and not to individual VA investigators.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

 

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