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.