Medical Researchers Fail to Disclose Industry Payments

An emerging study has revealed that about half of those US surgeons compensated for at least $1 million in payments from <"">orthopedic device companies did not disclose their financial ties when they published articles about the devices in medical journals, a new study has found, wrote Bloomberg Business Week.

The researchers at the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York point out that when others, such as medical professionals, read these articles, they do not know that conflicts of interest exist, said Business Week, which could impact how patients are treated.

The financial relationships between the drug and medical device industries and doctors have caused controversy in recent years. Critics have long held that such relationships create conflicts of interest and could unduly influence everything from research findings to prescribing practices. Over the past several years, states, medical schools, medical societies, and other entities have passed regulations requiring doctors to disclose their financial relationships with drug and device makers, and some have even tried to curb the gifts and other perks doctors can receive.

“The findings raise troubling questions about undisclosed payments or royalties and other fees from medical device companies that could lead to biased scientific conclusions,” said David Rothman, the study’s senior author and president of IMAP, quoted Business Week.

Rothman and his team analyzed public databases for “2007 physician payment information from five orthopedic device makers”: Biomet, <"">Johnson and Johnson’s  DePuy, Smith & Nephew, Stryker, and Zimmer, wrote Business Week. The Team learned that the manufacturers issued 1,654 payments totaling $248 million for “consulting, honoraria, and other … services,” said Business Week. Most—about 62-percent—of those funds were paid to 41 orthopedic surgeon researchers, meaning that amounts received ranged from over $1 million to $8.8 million, Business Week pointed out.

Of the journal articles published—95 by the 41 consultants—most were about a medical device and none indicated a financial tie existed between author and device maker, added Business Week. Consumers should be concerned, said the team. The report was published online this week in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

“Patients have a real stake in transparency. You want to make sure that the surgeon is choosing the device that is best for you and that your doctor is not getting biased information. The next generation of physicians should know that every nickel they take from industry is going to be made public,” Rothman said, quoted Business Week.

We recently wrote that, according to Children’s Hospital Boston, industry-funded trials tend to favor the drug being tested. The research urged for increased transparency about clinical drug trials to better eliminate bias, pointing out that industry was likely to be more discriminating regarding what it funded, which could have something to do with high positive outcome percentages. The researchers noted that such trials can be influenced to appear more positive, for instance by delaying release of negative results and only publishing positive results (so-called publication bias), wrote Science Daily.

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