“Transparency Hasn’t Stopped Drug Companies From Corrupting Medical Research”

NY Times Commentary by Marcia Angell: Transparency Hasn’t Stopped Drug Companies From Corrupting Medical Research

Dr. Angell, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine examines the recent outrage regarding Dr. José Baselga who resigned from his position as chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center after “ProPublica and The New York Times revealed that he’d received millions of dollars from drug and device companies … Most of his outside income was not disclosed to the journals in which he published, in violation of their requirements.”  Dr. Baselga has had a huge impact in cancer research; his work led to the discovery of Herceptin, a widely used treatment for breast cancer.

  • She argues that disclosure alone is not sufficient to prevent pharmaceutical companies from corrupting research:
  • “Drug company involvement biases research in ways that are not always obvious, often by suppressing negative results. A review of 74 clinical trials of antidepressants, for example, found that 37 of 38 positive studies — that is, studies that showed that a drug was effective — were published. But 33 of 36 negative studies were either not published or published in a form that conveyed a positive outcome.”
  • “Bias can also be introduced through the design of a clinical trial. For example, the sponsor’s drug may be compared with another drug administered at a dose so low that the sponsor’s drug looks more powerful.”
  • “Disclosure is better than no disclosure, but it does not eliminate the conflict of interest. It’s simply a way of … leaving it to readers to decide whether the research was biased. But most people — even doctors and science reporters — aren’t really equipped to make those judgments, particularly when data are suppressed.”
  • She argues that drug companies should have “no control over the design, interpretation and publication of trial results” and that “doctors should not accept gifts from drug companies, even small ones, and they should pay for their own meetings and continuing education, as is standard in other professions.”

My take (borrowed from author): “we should not let drug companies buy the hearts and minds of researchers. The cost of this is high, and not just in drug prices. It means both doctors and patients believe prescription drugs are better and safer than they really are.”

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1 thought on ““Transparency Hasn’t Stopped Drug Companies From Corrupting Medical Research”

  1. Pingback: My Favorite Posts from the Past Year | gutsandgrowth

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