The ongoing economic crunch has claimed yet another casualty – the Integrity in Science Watch program that was run by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The nonprofit organization, which is based in Washington, D.C., last week closed the effort due to a lack of funding, according to a CSPI spokesman.
ISW was a valuable source of weekly information that spotlighted the various conflicts of interest in science and medicine that are found in government agencies, academia, hospitals and industry. The digest, which was overseen by AHCJ member Merrill Goozner, a former journalist for the Chicago Tribune, aimed to highlight examples that the media may have missed and regularly follow up pertinent examples that faded from public view.
The ISW project was launched nearly three years ago as a way of publicizing conflicts, highlighting attention to the issue, and “casting an investigative eye on stories that had not yet hit the public eye,” says Goozner, who is contemplating transferring the effort to his weekly blog about health topics called GoozNews. “I think the Integrity in Science project at CSPI helped raise the profile of the conflict of interest in science in general, and in medicine in particular.”
What was he proud of pursuing? Analyzing the prevalence of failures to disclose conflicts in medical literature (2004); helping The New York Times unmask conflicts on the 2005 FDA advisory panel that evaluated Vioxx after the drug was withdrawn; lobbying for a ban on conflicts of interest on FDA advisory committees through the House (which failed in the Senate but obtaied greater disclosure of waivers and a two-week advance notice provision as a compromise – 2006); put that into law (2007).
AHCJ member Tinker Ready, on Boston Health News, writes that research institutions and companies presented their inventions to investors at Harvard Medical School on Monday.
An illuminated catheter, an artificial retina, a system to shrink tonsils and a device to deliver drugs to the brain were among the products at the “Early-Stage Life Sciences Technology Conference.”
Ready points out that the “the debate over the growing overlap between academia and industry remains unresolved,” with some seeing the effort as a threat to academic integrity.
Doctors around the country are required to obtain continuing education credits throughout the course of their career. John Fauber and Susanne Rust of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looked into drug-company funding of continuing education courses that often extol the virtues of a certain company’s pharmaceuticals while neglecting to mention any side-effects.
The drug industry has increased spending on doctor education from $302 million in 1998 to $1.2 billion in 2006, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. It now pays for more than half of all such courses.
“Drug companies have essentially hijacked the highest level of medical education we have in this country,” said (Daniel Carlat, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University Medical School), who also publishes a monthly continuing medical education psychiatry report that does not accept drug company funding.
The reporters focused on the University of Wisconsin, but found the problem to be widespread.
“What you are seeing in Wisconsin is just another example of what is going on all over the country,” said Arnold Relman, professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School and a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. “It’s unethical, and it is not in the public interest because it is going to bias doctors to use certain drugs.”