Vital Signs Blog

Safety journal blasts Denham in conflict of interest scandal

Denham Denham
In the ongoing fallout from what ProPublica today called the first scandal to hit the patient-safety movement, the editors of the Journal of Patient Safety found that five of 10 articles on operating room sterilization practices authored by disgraced former editor Dr. Charles Denham failed to disclose his financial conflicts of interest relevant to those articles.

As Modern Healthcare reported last January, Denham admitted that CareFusion, a manufacturer of 2% chlorhexidine used for surgical-site sterilization, paid his private consulting company more than $11 million while he chaired a committee of the National Quality Forum reviewing sterilization standards. The Department of Justice is investigating whether that money constituted illegal kickbacks intended to influence the guideline-writing process.

The panel that reviewed Denham's 10 articles in the safety journal, led by Dr. Albert Wu of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, concluded that “Dr. Denham's for-profit company had a financial interest with CareFusion. In the absence of a convincing alternative explanation from Dr Denham, it appears that he was induced by payments from CareFusion to recommend and promote NQF policies that were favorable to CareFusion. It also appears that the Journal was used to promote an NQF recommendation that promoted 2% chlorhexidine,” they wrote. “At the time, Dr Denham had both editorial control of the JPS and significant input into the development of the NQF product. This is a clear violation of the standards of the Journal.”

In an interview with Retraction Watch, written by MedPage Today editorial director Ivan Oransky, Dr. Wu said the journal's editorial board was considering article retractions, but the most likely outcome would be to attach the editorial to each article with improper disclosures.

Follow Merrill Goozner on Twitter: @MHgoozner


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