Cancer doctors must disclose all financial ties to investment firms, said a leading U.S. physician group seeking to stop the leak of insider information on clinical drug trials.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology described the new policy, the most strict of any medical group, in a Jan. 20 article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The Alexandria, Virginia-based professional organization has more than 23,000 members worldwide.
Cancer physicians must disclose all consulting or advisory arrangements they have with either investment or commercial interests, the policy says. Investment firms cultivate doctors with lucrative consulting arrangements, and traders can use their inside knowledge to buy and sell stocks of companies developing new therapies before the information becomes public.
The policy was crafted in response to reports about the growing practice of physicians consulting for Wall Street firms about confidential drug research, typically for $300 to $500 an hour, the authors wrote. The practice was described in an August 2005 investigative report by The Seattle Times, and it later attracted scrutiny from Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Times found 26 cases in which doctors leaked critical information about ongoing drug research to investment firms, despite signing confidentiality contracts with sponsors of drug trials.
Peter Eisenberg, a prominent cancer physician in Marin County, California, said the newly strengthened ethics policy for cancer doctors was a ``necessary step.'' He said the advice will help physicians who want to do the right thing, yet, ``for those who aren't scrupulous, no policy will suffice.''
Eisenberg said he stopped his $600 an hour consulting with Wall Street firms after reading the Seattle Times report about how investors elicit inside information from doctors. The Jan. 20 journal article cited instances where analysts have posed as fellow doctors or patients in order to elicit information from doctors.
``They know how to get the information, and basically, I don't know how to keep it to myself, so I decided to stop,'' Eisenberg said of working with investment firms.
So, basically, many oncologists involved with research trials are sneakily disclosing research findings so that investment firms can either buy or sell shares of drug developing firms. Pretty sleazy, eh?
Why this is even worse than it looks: Many physicians are breaking confidentiality agreements because they are getting paid quite a handsome sum. But when research results show that a drug is ineffective and/or dangerous (think SSRIs for child/adolescent depression, for example), research docs do not disclose the negative information to the people who actually need to know these results -- patients. This leaves tens of thousands of people taking medication that is dangerous and/or ineffective. So, to summarize, if they get paid off, many docs will break their confidentiality agreements with drug companies, yet when trial results show that a drug is not a good treatment option, nearly all research doctors will hide behind their confidentiality agreements and let people suffer. This does not exactly engender faith in the academic-pharmaceutical complex, does it?Many thanks to an anonymous reader for the link.