Oncologists frequently receive “gifts” from pharma companies, but how much is too much?
Maryam Mahdi | | Quick Read
Do the financial relationships between oncologists and pharma affect clinical practice in inappropriate ways? It’s a question that continues to be debated, and has been even more prominent since José Baselga, oncologist and chief medical officer at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, resigned after the research papers he had published failed to disclose millions of dollars worth of funds provided to him by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.
According to Aaron P. Mitchell, a medical oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, financial conflicts of interests (COI) between physicians and the drug industry are very common in the US, and a significant proportion of these interactions are oriented toward the promotion of existing drugs. In a recent study, he found that 70 percent of oncologists had received financial payments and/or in-kind compensation from the manufacturer of one or more of the cancer drugs they used (1). The study found that “gifts” varied from food, travel and lodging expenses, consulting fees, and honoraria.
“The collaboration between physicians and industry can be advantageous, particularly in the context of the development of new treatments. However, questions arise about what these relationships mean for the treatment of patients,” says Mitchell.
The study found that the promotional nature of payments often resulted in oncologists using a particular company’s drug more than alternative medicines, compared with oncologists who had not received any money.
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