Criticism by a national accreditation group over a lung cancer study that failed to disclose an author’s financial conflicts has led The New England Journal of Medicine to change its procedures. The study, conducted in 2006 by Dr. Claudia I. Henschke of Weill Cornell Medical College, said the widespread use of CT scans could prevent 80% of lung cancer deaths. But the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, in a letter to a cancer research newsletter, said the journal and its publisher, the Massachusetts Medical Society, had erred in failing to disclose “relevant financial conflicts of interests of the authors.”
The study failed to disclose that Dr. Henschke’s work had been underwritten in part by a $3.6 million grant from the parent company of the Liggett Group, a cigarette maker, something the Journal editors said they had been unaware of. But Dr. Henschke did disclose to the Journal that she and her university had also licensed a patent related to CT screening to General Electric, a maker of CT scanners. The medical journal decided against disclosing the existence of this patent to its readers. As is customary with many research articles, the Massachusetts Medical Society offered doctors educational credit for reading and answering questions about the lung cancer study. Such educational efforts must be accredited by the continuing education accreditation council.
The council’s criticism was published in a letter to The Cancer Letter, a periodical that provides information on the state of cancer research and treatment. In response, the medical society wrote a letter promising to change its procedures. The letter, signed by Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen, the Journal’s editor in chief, and Corinne Broderick, executive Vice-President of the Medical Society, dated October 1, 2008, stated:
When we published Dr. Henschke’s article in 2006 it was not routine NEJM editorial policy to publish details about pending patents. Since that time our thinking on this issue has evolved.
The journal now asks authors to disclose all patents or royalties related to their research. It also publishes the information with the studies. A spokeswoman for the medical journal, Jennifer Zeis, said the letter “speaks for itself.” This change is a good one and while perhaps overdue the Journal is to be commended. Clearly, it’s a step in the right direction.
Source: New York Times
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