There has been more news recently about Big Pharma, Big Money and conflicts of interest in the medical profession. It all amounts to a big story of greed and influence that wont go away.
Why the young are getting restless
Time for old-schoolers to join next-gen docs in shunning Big Pharma influence
In one of the latest installments of this saga, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., said that an anesthesiologist with privileges at the hospital fabricated results in at least 21 studies. The studies, authored by Scott Reuben, largely dealt with the use of medication to control post-operative pain. Baystate said that officials became aware of the violations last May, when its chief academic officer discovered two of Reubens research abstracts were not registered with the hospitals internal review board. That prompted a full investigation.
Some of the research by Reuben, who has been on leave since last year, centered on the Pfizer pain reliever Celebrex. Five such studies were funded by the drugmaker, and Reuben also served as a speaker for the company. Pfizer said it was unaware of the research violations before the allegations surfaced.
The hospital said that there was no evidence of adverse patient outcomes. But who knows what other physicians may have prescribed the drug as a result of Reubens studies?
Elsewhere in the state, the Massachusetts Public Health Council passed long-debated regulations banning nearly all forms of drug-company and medical-device gift-giving to healthcare providers. The rules also will require disclosure of certain types of payments that medical product companies make to providers and ban payments that arent bona fide compensation for services. Massachusetts thus joins a handful of states that require drugmakers to disclose their consulting-agreement payments to physicians, and it is the only state to hold devicemakers to the same requirements.
And in yet another story out of Massachusetts, the New York Times reports that Harvard Medical School students and sympathetic faculty have launched a movement to curtail pharmaceutical influence in classrooms and laboratories as well as affiliated teaching hospitals and institutes. The students contend Harvard should be embarrassed by the F grade it received from the American Medical Student Association, which rates medical schools on how well they monitor and control drug industry money.
The story quotes one pharmacology class student who grew wary when a professor touted the benefits of cholesterol drugs and appeared to belittle a student who asked about side effects. The student then found the teacher was a paid consultant to 10 drug companies, including five that make cholesterol treatments.
Harvard really needs to live up to its name, another student was quoted as saying. We are really being indoctrinated into a field of medicine that is becoming more and more commercialized.
The students have succeeded in securing a requirement that all professors and lecturers disclose their industry ties in classa blanket policy unique to Harvard so far. The story notes that one professors disclosure lists 47 company affiliations.
That last development from the Bay State may be the most encouraging news in the sad saga of physician conflicts of interest. Students have embraced what so many of their elders have shunned: integrity and propriety regarding drug companies. Their youthful idealism has led them to believe that the patients welfare should be their first priority and that treatment shouldnt be dictated by financial rewards. What a concept!
Lets hope these young doctors transform the all-too-common landscape of influence-peddling in medicine. And lets hope their numbers grow and that the dubious ethics of too many members of the previous generation become a story of the past.
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