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The Financial Conflicts of Interest Behind Closed Doors in Your Hospital

As I cite the many statistics involving medical errors and health care workers ignoring them or even a personal account of how they can needlessly and forever maim someone, you may be thinking that they can't happen to you and that your hospital and its attending physicians are beyond reproach.

Guess again, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study about the financial conflicts and compromises that plague your hospital. By the numbers, based on reviews of the institutional medical boards who oversee 100 university medical centers:

  • 36 percent of their members receive money from companies that produce drugs or medical devices studied at their institution (few, if any, ever disclose those ties publicly).
  • 15 percent of medical board members were asked to review a study conducted by a company for which they consulted or one of a competitor over the previous year.
  • Although more than 50 percent of the respondents claimed they always discussed their conflicts of interest with university medical boards, 35 percent rarely or never did.

Despite a lack of awareness evidently by some physicians, as noted so politically correctly by the study's lead author, federal laws prohibit members of an institutional review board with conflicts of interest from ruling on a study. Perhaps, that's because their review boards never formally spelled out what constitutes a conflict of interest, the case reported by more than half of the respondents.

New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 355, No. 22, November 30, 2006: 2321-2329

Yahoo News November 29, 2006