Medical Researchers Doing The Right Thing

April 15th, 2008at 07:13am Posted by Eli

Why do they hate America?

With little fanfare, a small number of prominent academic scientists have made a decision that was until recently all but unheard of. They decided to stop accepting payments from food, drug and medical device companies.

No longer will they be paid for speaking at meetings or for sitting on advisory boards. They may still work with companies. It is important, they say, for knowledgeable scientists to help companies draw up and interpret studies. But the work will be pro bono.

The scientists say their decisions were private and made with mixed emotions. In at least one case, the choice resulted in significant financial sacrifice. While the investigators say they do not want to appear superior to their colleagues, they also express relief. At last, they say, when they offer a heartfelt and scientifically reasoned opinion, no one will silently put an asterisk next to their name.

They are part of a group responding to accusations of ethical conflicts inherent in these arrangements, and their decisions repudiate decades of industry influence, says Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, a professor at the Tufts School of Medicine, who has written a book on conflicts of interest.

Five years ago, “nobody paid any attention to taking money from industry,” he said, adding: “They just took it. In some instances, I think people thought they were suckers if they didn’t.”


He attributes the change to publicity about conflicts and what can be almost a public shaming when researchers’ conflicts are published. “Finally, it’s gotten to people,” Dr. Kassirer said.

The story then provides three examples of researchers who voluntarily made this decision.  One recoiled after being blasted by the blogosphere; another began to doubt his own objectivity; and the third said he got sick of seeing “Dr. Winer has accepted honoraria”.

I’m not sure it’s enough to make a difference yet, but it’s good to know that there are still some people out there with enough of a conscience to trade money for integrity.  Bravo!

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Corruption/Cronyism,Science

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