RESEARCH: Feds Consider New Conflict of Interest Rules
The "huge influx" of corporate money being pumped into biomedical research is generating "unacceptable conflicts of interest" for scientists and is "eroding" the public's faith that data is unbiased, scientists and federal officials concluded at a conference yesterday. The meeting was convened by HHS to discuss strengthening rules on conflict of interest in medical research. At the meeting, Dr. David Korn, a senior vice president with the Association of American Medical Colleges, asserted that current guidelines -- which suggest that if a researcher has a conflict he should report it confidentially to the sponsoring university -- are inadequate. Korn warned that if medical researchers and professional associations fail to implement more effective guidelines for research involving human subjects, the federal government "would do it for them." FDA Commissioner Dr. Jane Henney added that some scientists who test drugs or therapies have "profitable arrangements" with the companies financing the research, raising the question of whether study data is unbiased. Dr. Thomas Bodenheimer, a University of California at San Francisco researcher who has conducted studies on conflict-of-interest issues, cited a 1996 survey of six major medical journals that found that 29% of 809 articles evaluated were either written by well-known physicians hired to be guest authors on studies they didn't conduct, by "ghost writers" from the company whose drug was being studied -- or both. Bodenheimer also presented research showing that 89% of company-sponsored trials came out in favor of the company's drug, compared to just 61% of studies conducted by scientists without corporate sponsorship (Hilts, New York Times, 8/16). Though the conference is not expected to yield any immediate guideline changes, federal officials said they are "closely examining what [they] might do to temper the influence of industry money on academic medical research" (O'Harrow, Washington Post, 8/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.