Medical schools split over drug firm role in research

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U.S. medical schools are willing to give pharma companies considerable control over study results of new drugs and treatments, according to an article appearing in yesterday's New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
The article highlights a survey finding that half of U.S. medical schools would let pharma companies draft medical journal articles and a quarter would allow them to supply the actual results.
The survey was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts Center for Survey Research.
Harvard researchers requested information from the nation's 122 accredited medical schools to gain insight into the existing standards between researchers and sponsors. All but 15 responded.
Although researchers did not establish exactly how much control universities would actually give to companies, they did find that medical schools overwhelmingly agreed they would not enter into contracts allowing companies to edit research articles or suppress negative results, with most academics drawing the line at gag orders keeping researchers from publishing negative findings. 
"These results are really bothersome," Jerome Kassirer, former NEJM editor-in-chief and author of a recent book about conflict of interest, told the Associated Press. "Some investigators may be willing to accept constraints just to maintain good relations with the company," said Kassirer.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), has claimed that corporate sponsors do not interfere with the independence of researchers. PhRMA publishes voluntary research guidelines stating companies will sometimes help analyze and interpret results and have the right to review articles before publication. The guidelines also note that sponsors own the data and have sole discretion over who has access to the information.


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