[A] Congressional inquiry, led by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is systematically asking some of the nation’s most prominent researchers to provide their conflict-of-interest disclosures, and he is comparing those documents with actual payment records from drug companies.
The records often conflict, sometimes starkly.
“After questioning about 20 doctors and research institutions, it looks like problems with transparency are everywhere,” Mr. Grassley said. “The current system for tracking financial relationships isn’t working.”
The findings suggest that universities are all but incapable of policing their faculty’s conflicts of interests. Almost every major medical school and medical society is now reassessing its relationships with drug and device makers.
One of the nation’s most influential psychiatrists earned more than $2.8 million in consulting arrangements with drug makers between 2000 and 2007, failed to report at least $1.2 million of this income to his university, and violated federal research rules, according to documents provided to Congressional investigators.
Dr. Nemeroff is a charismatic speaker and widely admired scientist who has written more than 850 research reports and reviews. He was editor in chief of the influential journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Asking schools to oversee faculty consulting arrangements and the conflicts they represent to patients is fraught since schools benefit from the fame and money that the deals can bring.
In effect, universities share professors’ conflicts — a point Dr. Nemeroff made plain in a May 2000 letter stamped “confidential” that he sent to the dean of Emory’s medical school. The letter addressed Dr. Nemeroff’s membership on a dozen corporate advisory boards.“Surely you remember that Smith-Kline Beecham Pharmaceuticals donated an endowed chair to the department and that there is some reasonable likelihood that Janssen Pharmaceuticals will do so as well. In addition, Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals has funded a Research Career Development Award program in the department, and I have asked both AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Meyers [sic] Squibb to do the same. Part of the rationale for their funding our faculty in such a manner would be my service on these boards.”
Pharmalot blogger Ed Silverman has more here.