The Cancer Letter (subscription required), a terrific publication about federal cancer policy and funding, opens new questions about disclosure of conflicts of interest in this country.
The Integrity in Science Watch project summarized it this way:
In the wake of allegations that a prominent lung cancer researcher failed to disclose a patent licensed to General Electric on interpreting CT scans in an article that claimed early CT scanning could substantially reduce lung cancer mortality, the New England Journal of Medicine last month ruled the patents â€œnot relevantâ€? to the subject of the article and refused to print a correction. Now, a follow-up investigation by the Cancer Letter, an industry newsletter, uncovered numerous instances when Weill Medical College researcher Claudia Henschke failed to disclose the patents in a series of continuing medical education (CME) seminars, including one held by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) a month after the article appeared in October 2006. The NEJM article could also be read for CME credit.
The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education in 2005 adopted strict rules for disclosing granted and pending patents held by any presenter at a CME activity. â€œRoyalties by themselves establish the financial relationship of the person with a commercial interest and create the potential for conflict of interest. Therefore, the relationship is relevant in CME,â€? Murray Kopelow, the chief executive of ACCME, told the Cancer Letter. The Center for Science in the Public Interest later this week will ask the ACCME to order all the CME providers where Henschke failed to disclose to send proper disclosures to anyone who participated in those activities. And Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said he plans to launch a Congressional inquiry in physician patenting activity. â€œItâ€™s becoming clear that patents and royal payments to doctors deserve a lot more scrutiny from Congress, the FDA, professional journals and other watchdogs,â€? Grassley said.
This one is complex - involving researchers' disclosure, medical journals' policies, and the whole big, murky mess of continuing medical education.
And it's important - for the sake of honest, transparent, open disclosure of questions at the very heart of the integrity of scientific medical research.
Kudos to the bulldogs at the Cancer letter, who say that although their publication is subscription only, they'll send this particular article to any interested party if you e-mail them at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.