Monday, October 29, 2007

Department Chairs & Drug Companies

A new survey published in last week's JAMA indicates that almost two thirds of department heads at U.S. medical schools have financial ties to drug companies.

The survey, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was distributed to all 125 accredited medical schools and the nation’s largest teaching hospitals. A total of 459 of 688 eligible department chairs completed the survey.

The results indicated that many of the academic leaders at these institutions served as paid consultants to the pharmaceutical industry or accepted free meals and drinks from drug company representatives. Overall, 60 percent of the department heads had a personal financial relationship with the drug companies. Twenty-seven percent reported serving as a paid consultant to the pharmaceutical industry and an equivalent amount of respondents also reported serving on a drug company scientific advisory board. Furthermore, 21 percent of these academic leaders reported serving on speakers’ bureaus for the drug industry. Eleven percent of respondents were on the board of directors of companies involved in the medical industry. In short, the survey found that pharmaceutical companies are involved in every aspect of medical care.

The lead author of the study, Eric Campbell, pointed out that drug companies and makers of medical devices often take advantage of these academic connections to convince physicians to widely prescribe the companies’ products to patients, even if the products aren’t necessarily in the patients’ best interest. Campbell also co-authored a study last year, which found that these same links to drug companies occur on hospital review boards that oversee experiments on patients.


Maci said...

Was there not a law passed that doctors were no longer allowed to accept gifts from reps unless it was directly related to the product (ie pens, notepads etc)

Spencer Thornton, M.D. said...

Several years ago, many of the larger medical societies made it a requirement that a program speaker state his or her financial relationships, including honoraria, transportation, consulting fees, etc. to the audience before presenting his paper. This way the audience could judge the likelihood of a bias on the part of the speaker.

Peer reviewed medical journals have the same requirement.

Unfortunately, the public has no way of knowing, unless the doctor is up front about it.

Missy said...

So how do we know who is being endorsed by pharm. companies? Who do we believe? For instance when choosing a doctor should I ask them certain questions?

Spencer Thornton, M.D. said...

Missy, ask your doctor, "What companys do you consult for?". You have a right to know. Especially if the medication is new or not FDA approved for your condition.

There is nothing wrong for one to consult, but the doctor should let his patients know about the relationship.

Most doctors do research, and some do it with company sponsorship. Nothing wrong with that either, but the doctor should be up front about it.

Hannah said...

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Hannah Bevills