Thursday, May 26, 2005

Conflict of Interest

Roy Poses over at Health Care Renewal has a troubling post about the relationships between medical schools and pharmaceutical companies. Basically a survey was given to 122 med schools, asking if "In your best judgment, would your office allow a clause in a multi-center clinical-trial agreement saying that [x]," ... where [x] was questions like "The sponsor will own the data produced by the researcher" or "The sponsor will store the data and release portions to the investigator". The results of the study basically found:
In the aggregate, this data suggests that some medical school research administrators will approve contracts with industry that prevent the ostensible academic investigators from having meaningful control over the research project. Some will allow the for-profit companies that nominally only serve as funding sources for the trial to manipulate the design, analysis, and interpretation of results so that the results are likely to come out the way they want.

Further, researchers at medical schools are often responsible for coming up with their own project funding after their first couple years on staff. Many will turn to pharmaceutical comapanies and other for-profit entities to foot the bill. This just perpetuates the conflict of interest cycle, from the researcher's petri dish to the doctor's prescription pad -- Big Pharma has their hand in all of it. And they're assisted by the AMA, which for decades has proven it has nothing but its own best interest at heart.

I'm a newbie at the serious policy answers, and I'm unsure what political actions here are viable or realistic. It seems the best answer to the "what can we do about this?" question is to publicize it. We need to keep driving home that many, many doctors are in bed with pharmaceutical companies, and hopefully public outcry will lead to more ethical practices. So, go read the post, and tell your friends.


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