With little fanfare, a small number of prominent academic scientists have decided to stop accepting payments from drug and device makers for speaking at meetings or for sitting on advisory boards. And while they maintain that it's important for for knowledgeable scientists to help companies draw up and interpret studies, any work they do will be pro bono,The New York Times writes.
As an example, the paper cites Peter Libby, chief of cardiovascular medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who began receiving offers from drugmakers 25 years ago. And it seemed like a natural reflection of his growing reputation. He never owned stock in companies that he consulted for and always disclosed his consulting and speaking. So he thought he was protected from accusations of favoring any particular product because he consulted for so many companies. “I lived safely in that comfort zone for many years,” Libby tells the Times.
Then he spent four years working without pay to help create a public television series, “The Mysterious Human Heart,” which he thought was a worthy effort to educate the public about heart disease. He was proud and pleased when the series was broadcast in October, the Times writes, but to his dismay, bloggers attacked him and the other medical experts who appeared on the programs for having consulted for drug and device makers.
“They said we were biased. What I thought was four years of public service was impugned. That was a wake-up call for me. I was singed in the blogosphere,” he tells the Times, adding that he no longer accepts payments. “I want to speak out about the beliefs I am passionate about regarding prevention and medical advances that I think can reduce disease and save lives. It is not worth it to be under suspicion.”
Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, tells the paper he made a similar decision to protect his integrity when he began to wonder whether his industry associations were subtly affecting his objectivity. “The money offers started happening about 20 years ago, at the point that I became a visible person in the field,” Brownell tells the Times. “It is easy to offer subtle statements that would favor a drug. You do it for two reasons. You’ve got a money stream coming in, and you get to like the people who work for the companies. You feel like you’re on a team.”
Eric Winer, director of the Breast Oncology Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard, made his decision about a year ago, the Times writes. “Several times when I was interviewed for stories, after my comments there would be the obligatory phrase, ‘Dr. Winer has accepted honoraria,’ ” he tells the paper. “I was tired of having to see that...I am responding to a societal pressure. I just said enough is enough. And in truth, it has made my life simpler. I no longer debate can I take this, can I not take this. It is simpler when I talk to reporters. It is simpler when I give lectures...This is a complicated arena. And on some level I resent the fact that I had to make this decision.”
Source: The New York Times