Medical school should reveal financial ties

By By Sabriel Harris

By Sabriel Harris

In the fall of 2008, David Tian and two other Harvard Medical School students organized a protest against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. After their questions to a professor regarding a drug distributed by the company were ignored, the students discovered that this professor, along with 149 other Harvard employees, were being paid by Pfizer.

The conflicts of interest snowballed from there when a Pfizer employee was found taking pictures of the protest. The reason he was there is still unknown. Pfizer has now agreed to disclose all financial ties with Harvard employees, but if this information had been readily available, this messy situation could have been avoided.

The Cleveland Clinic began making any ties it has public in February and is the only institution in the nation to do so. The clinic is one of the country’s most prominent medical research centers and is a pioneer for the safety of students and patients alike.

This move will make information that should have always been out in the open accessible. But this right will not be coming to the U in the near future8212;in fact, it is not something the U’s Office for Research Integrity and Compliance is even considering.

“We are very concerned about conflicts of interest in our researchers, but I am not convinced that making them public is going to do the job,” said Jefferey Botkin, associate vice president for Research Integrity and Compliance at the U. “We are looking for other mechanisms to fix this problem.”

According to the Policy for Research Misconduct in the Regulations Library of the U, “Misconduct” or “Misconduct in Research” means that “fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those practices that are commonly accepted within the research community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest difference in interpretations or judgments of data.”

This falsification happens more often than it should and it is difficult to prove. The U should join Cleveland in trying in any way possible to stem these conflicts of interest. The U is one of the most influential medical schools in the country. Everything it does is based on research, making public knowledge of financial ties critical. The U has established a century of notoriety and incredible respect for the research it has done in the medical community. It would be sad to see the U tainted by something so easily avoidable.

Biased research and withheld information can drastically interfere with the medical world, and might eventually alter treatments and diagnosis methods8212;possibly putting patients’ lives at risk. We cannot afford to allow this travesty.

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