Medicine in conflict

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Business Week has an interesting special report on “blurring the lines between objective science and financial gain. ”

The magazine profiles a New York heart specialist who is chairman of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation in New York. Excerpt: “The foundation uses donations and fees from medical device companies to stage (an) annual conference, called Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT). A professor of medicine at Columbia University, he has helped start a handful of cardiac device companies through a corporate “incubator” he co-founded. He also has served as a paid scientific adviser for several other startups. Over the years, companies to which he has had close ties have been featured prominently at TCT, creating at minimum a perception that the companies’ products are favored for reasons other than medical merit. … Beyond the danger that conflicts may distort individual clinical decisions, some TCT observers worry that the event engenders a general excess of enthusiasm for complicated device-based procedures. From 1986 to 2003 the number of nonsurgical cardiac procedures, such as propping open arteries with wire-mesh stents, rose twelvefold, according to the American Heart Assn. Such procedures “are uncomfortable, relatively expensive, and might be taking the focus away” from less invasive, equally effective treatments, such as taking medicine, says Dr. David D. Waters, chief of cardiology at San Francisco General Hospital.”

Read the entire report. It paints a picture that is now being seen more often in medical research – a tangled web of conflicts of interest with big dollars at stake. And where, in all of this, are consumer interests represented?

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