UCLA Surgeon Didn't Report Industry PaymentsMay 28, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The relationships and finances exchanged between Industry and researchers have long been making the news and point to a bias in which patients are often not the prime concern. In a growing trend of reports of physicians and researchers failing to disclose Industry payments, the Wall Street Journal just released an article about prominent spine surgeon Jeffrey Wang who has joined the ranks of these physicians.
Wang, chief of spine surgery from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) neglected to disclose payments from medical companies while conducting research for them, said the Journal, citing records obtained by congressional investigators. UCLA’s Jeffrey Wang, kept quiet about $459,500 he received from 2004 through 2007, said the Journal, according to a May 21 letter it reviewed from Senator Charles Grassley (Republican-Iowa) to UCLA’s chancellor. According to Grassley, said the Journal, Dr. Wang "consistently checked no" on the forms in the area asking if income exceeding $500 was received from companies funding Wang’s clinical research.
Grassley and others have spearheaded investigations into the negligence surrounding the reporting of these relationships. Those concerned say the conflicts can affect critical decisions about research and subsequent treatments, said the Journal.
Because of Grassley’s investigations, restrictions have been put in place that limit the money researchers accept from Industry, publicize funds received, and restrict consultant and speaker roles, said the Journal in a prior report. A number of states—Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, and West Virginia—now have laws that say medical companies must report payments made to in-state doctors; a bill has been sponsored by Grassley and others, requiring national disclosure, said the Journal.
Dr. Wong was paid by Medronic Inc. ($186,700 from 2004 through 2007), Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit, and FzioMed Inc., said the Journal, according to Grassley. Funds included product royalties and speaking and consulting fees. No monies were reported to UCLA until Grassley asked for Wang’s disclosure forms, said Grassley, reported the Journal. In California, state university researchers must disclose “financial ties to nongovernmental entities funding their work,” said the Journal.
Conflicts of interests can result in fines, fund freezes, and future grant loss, said the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an earlier report. To help ensure no conflict-of-interest opportunities present themselves, the government mandates all such conflicts be reported by clinical researchers responsible for reviewing medications in advance of drug companies applying for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. But, earlier this year, the Inspector General’s Office said the FDA is not reliable when it comes to finding drug research conflicts, a huge issue these days between medical professionals and industry.
Last year, prominent Emory University professor Charles Nemeroff lost his chairmanship following controversy over payments he received from drug companies. In December, following an internal investigation, Nemeroff stepped down as head of the school’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, a position he held since 1991. Since, Nemeroff and the university have been the subject of a Grassley-urged federal investigation into Nemeroff’s highly compensated activities with Industry.
Joseph Biederman’s activities also made for a well-publicized conflict of interest case. A prominent Harvard University psychiatrist, Biederman promised to deliver positive results to major drug maker Johnson & Johnson before the start of some clinical trials for Risperdal (Risperidone), an atypical antipsychotic medication, prompting another investigation by the Senator.