Institute of Medicine prescribes ethics overhaul

Scott Hensley

About Scott Hensley

Scott Hensley runs NPR's online health channel, Shots. Previously he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and covered the drug industry and the Human Genome Project for the Journal. Hensley serves on AHCJ's board of directors. You can follow him at @ScottHensley.

A pillar of the medical establishment criticized industry freebies for doctors in a wide-ranging report that calls for an end to practices that threaten to corrode physicians’ independent judgment and public trust in the profession.

The Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released a long-awaited report Tuesday that says disclosure of potential conflicts is a necessary first step but isn’t enough to safeguard medicine.

Some of the recommendations, if adopted, would eliminate longstanding practices, such as doctors’ use of free samples of brand-name drugs for all but the poorest patients, industry funding of continuing medical education and company ghostwriting of studies published or presented by doctors.

questions-and-moneyColumbia University’s David Rothman bluntly told the New York Times, “With the I.O.M.’s endorsement, issues that were once controversial now are indisputable. Conflicts of interest in medicine are no longer acceptable.”

You can read the report free online or download the executive summary. Reporters can get the report free from the National Academies press office, according to a news release.

Though many of the recommendations have already gained traction with universities, law makers and companies, some criticized the report as being short on facts to support its recommendations. Thomas Stossel, a Harvard Medical School professor, told The Wall Street Journal, “There is no evidence for the need of these regulation. It’s high-end welfare for the ethicists and maybe job security for the academic administrators.”

Bio Bonus: The report includes bios of committee members, including Peter Corr, formerly a research executive at Pfizer, who still holds stock and options in the drug maker. See the lineup starting on page 331.

1 thought on “Institute of Medicine prescribes ethics overhaul

  1. Kelly Latta

    Conflicts of interest and bias in health and medicine come in all shapes and sizes and are rarely limited to the sociological theory of “medicalization.”

    Other conflicts of interest include money and funding from say the big businesses of health and disability insurance; confirmatory bias which can occur when a researcher or group denies or marginalizes any evidence to the contrary – their job may depend on having devoted entire careers to a certain outcome; misconduct related to study protocols; and/or the peer review process.

    Bias can also come in when one researcher or group has the biggest megaphone because their funding is far more extensive. The biggest megaphone doesn’t necessarily make someone “right” – just loud. If they dominate the press release scene always make sure to include other sides for balance. Focus on why such funding discrepancies exist rather than the more simplistic “bad” funding. viewpoint.

    Focus on the legitimacy of the findings using conflict of interest as a possible red flag to be noted in the story. And don’t forget meta-analysis which can be skewed when “one side” of a debate dominates the funding picture.

    You might also wish to read “Why Most Research Findings are False” by Genetics and Genomics professor John P. A. Ioannidis on the PLoS site.

    Make sure you aren’t being used to “smear” or marginalize researcher’s opponents for them.

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