In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
The dean of Yale’s medical school, the incoming president of a prominent cancer group and the head of a Texas cancer center are among leading medical figures who have not accurately disclosed their relationships with drug companies. This story was co-published with The New York Times.
One is dean of Yale’s medical school. Another is the director of a cancer center in Texas. A third is the next president of the most prominent society of cancer doctors.
These leading medical figures are among dozens of doctors who have failed in recent years to report their financial relationships with pharmaceutical and health care companies when their studies are published in medical journals, according to a review by ProPublica and The New York Times and data from other recent research.
Dr. Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, the president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, for instance, declared that he had no conflicts of interest in more than 50 journal articles in recent years, including in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
However, drug companies have paid his employer nearly $114,000 for consulting and speaking, and nearly $8 million for his research during the period for which disclosure was required. His omissions extended to the Journal of Clinical Oncology, which is published by the group he will lead.
In addition to the widespread lapses by doctors, the review by ProPublica and The Times found that journals themselves often gave confusing advice and did not routinely vet disclosures by researchers, although many relationships could have been easily detected on a federal database.
Medical journals, which are the main conduit for communicating the latest scientific discoveries to the public, often have an interdependent relationship with the researchers who publish in their pages. Reporting a study in a leading journal can heighten their profile—not to mention that of the drug or other product being tested. And journals enhance their cachet by publishing exclusive, breakthrough studies by acclaimed researchers.
In all, the reporting system still appears to have many of the same flaws that the Institute of Medicine identified nearly a decade ago when it recommended fundamental changes in how conflicts of interest are reported. Those have yet to happen.
“The system is broken,” said Dr. Mehraneh Dorna Jafari, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. She and her colleagues published a study in August that found that, of the 100 doctors who received the most compensation from device makers in 2015, conflicts were disclosed in only 37 percent of the articles published in the next year. “The journals aren’t checking and the rules are different for every single thing.”
Calls for transparency stem from concerns that researchers’ ties to the health and drug industries increase the odds they will, consciously or not, skew results to favor the companies with whom they do business. Studies have found that industry-sponsored research tends to be more positive than research financed by other sources. And that in turn can sway which treatments become available to patients. There is no indication that the research done by Burris and the other doctors with incomplete disclosures was manipulated or falsified.
Journal editors say they are introducing changes that will better standardize disclosures and reduce errors. But some have also argued that since most researchers follow the rules, stringent new requirements would be costly and unnecessary.
The issue has gained traction since September, when Dr. José Baselga, the chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, resigned after The Times and ProPublica reported that he had not revealed his industry ties in dozens of journal articles.
Burris, president of clinical operations and chief medical officer at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, referred questions to his employer.