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NEJM Changes Disclosure Policy

Jan 12, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

Conflict of Interest Allegations have Caused the NEJM to Change its Policies Regarding Disclosures

Conflict-of-interest allegations have caused the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) to change its policies regarding such disclosures said, citing a New York Times piece.

The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education criticized the Journal for not revealing a financial conflict of interest with one of its study authors, said FierceHealthCare, referring to an article on CT scan effectiveness in the prevention of lung cancer deaths.  The study authors—doctors Claudia Henschke and David Yankelevitz received a substantial, multi-million dollar grant from a cigarette manufacturer, yet grant information was not revealed when the article was published in October 2006, said FierceHealthCare.  The Journal issued a correction and published an editorial last spring, said, which explained that Henschke and Yankelevitz received funding and royalty payments for their work on the articles.  Funding was provided by cigarette manufacturer Liggett Tobacco’s parent company and royalties were paid via General Electric (GE) licensing imaging patents.

The 2006 study concluded that broad CT scan use could prevent the vast majority of deaths attributable to lung cancer.  And, although Henschke did advise the Journal that she and Weill Cornell Medical College licensed the patent to GE, the Journal opted to not disclose that information and claimed it did not know the grant was funded, in large part, by a cigarette maker, reported Medical News Today.

Journal and its Publisher Erred by not Revealing "Relevant Financial Conflicts of Interests of Authors

Medical News Today referred to a letter published in The Cancer Letter in which the Council said that the Journal and its publisher erred by not revealing, “relevant financial conflicts of interests of the authors."  In its response, the Journal defended its actions stating, "When we published Dr. Henschke's article in 2006, it was not routine NEJM editorial policy to publish details about pending patents," adding, "Since that time our thinking on this issue has evolved."  The Times reported that the Journal now requests authors to disclose patents and royalties received for research on which they write and includes that information in its study articles.

It is a well-know fact that the financial ties between doctors, medical researchers, and the drug industry run deep and some highly regarded doctors and researchers have faced a great deal of criticism because of their financial arrangements with pharmaceutical companies.  For instance, Dr. Joseph Biederman is the latest doctor whose activities with Big Pharma are under review.  According to the Boston Globe, Biederman, a well-known child psychiatrist who has advocated antipsychotics to treat bipolar disorder in children, is suspending his financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies pending an investigation.

Also, Fierce Healthcare noted that Emory University stripped the chairmanship from prominent psychiatric researcher Charles Nemeroff when an investigation revealed he had not reported significant amounts of industry-sourced income.  And, David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School professor has stepped down from the scientific advisory board of Shaklee Corporation after it was found he helped promote a product claiming to possess life-extending properties.  Sinclair remains as co-chief adviser to Glaxo’s Sirtris Pharmaceuticals and received over $8 million when Glaxo acquired Sirtris; the company pays him $297,000 annually as a consultant, said the Wall Street Journal.

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