Cutting ties to reduce conflicts

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I wonder if this will start to become more common: According to this article in the New York Times today, Eric J. Topol, the chief academic officer of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, who has had consulting and financial ties with numerous drug and medical device companies including Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb, "said in a letter to one company that he had decided to end most of his relationships to 'maintain my academic credibility.'" But did he jump on his own, or was he shoved?

    The decision follows a report in December by Fortune magazine that Dr. Topol, a leading critic of the painkiller Vioxx, was a paid consultant to a hedge fund that had made money betting that shares of Merck, Vioxx's maker, would fall. Dr. Topol severed his ties with that firm, though he said he had no knowledge of the firm's investment position.

Either way, it's pretty interesting. But if all prominent physicians end up cutting their ties with pharma for whatever reason, that could be disastrous for drug and device research. No easy answers for this one.

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