Financial Conflicts of Interest Are Major Contributor to Academic Success
Financial conflicts of interest between university-based researchers and pharmaceutical companies are controversial, because marketing, dinners, and monetary relationships influence prescribing practices. “However, so much of the cancer research that we desperately need is funded by pharma. We need to find ways to ethically partner together for the good of our patients,” argues Suneel D. Kamath, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. To learn more about how financial conflicts of interest develop, Kamath and colleagues evaluated self-reported conflicts for 230 assistant professors at 10 cancer centers.1
“This study tried to see if there was a relationship between the number of relationships and strength of relationships between younger faculty members at the top 10 cancer centers with pharma to see if that correlated with career success,” Kamath says.
Of 230 assistant professors, 46% reported at least one conflict. Reporting many conflicts with drug companies correlated well with publishing more papers and publishing more high-impact research. Those are key metrics for success and promotion for university-based researchers. The report findings suggest relationships with the pharmaceutical industry also are the key to a successful career for some cancer researchers. “They must be managed well, in terms of practicing medicine by guidelines and ethics, not by influence from dinners and marketing,” Kamath warns.
For research, the percentage of cancer research funding that comes from government or nonprofit foundation grants continues to dwindle. “There is so much money in industry. We can’t ignore that reality because we still need to develop new drugs and make cancer outcomes better,” Kamath says.
For clinicians, the main ethical challenge is to “pay attention to the data, not what drug companies want us to interpret from the data,” Kamath adds. “Engagements that are solely for marketing should be limited. But those with a scientific lens can still be beneficial.”
- Kamath SD, Fought AJ, Shaw MM, Davis AA. Association of financial conflicts of interest with academic productivity among junior faculty in hematology and oncology. Oncology (Williston Park) 2022;36:84-91.
Reporting many conflicts with drug companies correlated well with publishing more papers and publishing more high-impact research. Those are key metrics for success and promotion for university-based researchers. The report findings suggest relationships with the pharmaceutical industry also are the key to a successful career for some cancer researchers.
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