TRUSTING MEDICAL RESEARCH IS ABOUT
AS RISKY AS TRUSTING POLITICIANS
“Looking at the world’s 50 largest drug companies, researchers found that 40% had at least one board member who held a leadership position at a U.S. academic medical center — including medical school deans, chief executive officers, department chairs, and university presidents. The average annual compensation from the drug companies was $313,000, according to the paper published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.” John Fauber, a reporter for both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today
Have you ever served on a board or committee? Sure you have. It’s almost always a pain in the butt. And how much did you get paid for it? If you’re like me; probably nothing. How would you like to make $313,000 (plus all travel / meal / lodging expenses) to serve on the board of a pharmaceutical company? But that’s not all. Think about it like this. These aren’t even jobs. These are part time gigs that consist largely of attending a few meetings a year held at major cities or tourist destinations in order to best determine how to spend / invest pharmaceutical industry money. The thing you have to remember is that the top brass for these institutions of higher learning also happen to be making most, if not all, of the budgeting decisions for their respective universities / hospitals / clinics. These heads of colleges ultimately decide which drugs / medical devices / equipment will be used or studied at their facilities. They even decide which drugs will be prescribed to the patients staying in their hospitals / clinics. And this is just the beginning.
Dr. Mary Sue Coleman (president of University of Michigan) has done even better in her relationship with Johnson & Johnson. Although she only made $276,000 for serving on their board last year, she is the proud owner of over 34,000 shares of their stock. Trading at nearly a hundred bucks a share, her piece of J&J was valued at just shy of 3.5 million dollars. Fortunately, university spokesperson, Kelly Cunningham, stated that, “The University of Michigan does not see President Coleman’s service on the Johnson & Johnson board as a conflict of interest“. That seems to go hand in hand with what Johnson & Johnson’s proxy statement said about the University of Michigan (“Proxy Statements” are public statements required ahead of a corporation’s annual meeting, when a firm is soliciting shareholder votes, helping to assess how management is paid, and / or revealing potential conflict-of-interest issues that could get them in trouble with auditors). Even though there were research grants and consulting fees paid from J&J to U of M, we can all rest better at night because according to Johnson, there were no, “direct business relationships” with the university. Thank goodness. I feel so much better about all of this now.
Bottom line folks; when you start reading some of my posts on the myth of EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE, you learn real quickly that things are not always as they appear. Take a few minutes to look at the article from JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) called Conflict of Interest Policies for Academic Health System Leaders Who Work With Outside Corporations. The problem is not really the money itself. I could not care less that these folks are making money hand-over-fist. Bully for them! The problem is that it is an obvious COI that taints every single aspect of the research coming from these facilities.