Ties That Bind: Multiple Relationships Between Clinical Researchers and the Pharmaceutical Industry
McNeill, Paul M.
Archives of Internal Medicine 2005 November 28; 165(21): 2493- 2496
BACKGROUND: It is believed that pharmaceutical industry sponsorship of clinical research leads to the development of multiple ties between clinicians and the pharmaceutical industry. To quantify this relationship we conducted a survey of medical specialists listed in the Medical Directory of Australia in 2002 and 2003. METHODS: A questionnaire was mailed that elicited information about all aspects of research relationships between clinicians and pharmaceutical companies. The odds of reporting multiple additional ties (financial and professional) with pharmaceutical companies by clinicians who had an active research relationship were compared with those who did not. All clinicians who returned a completed questionnaire about their research activities were included in the study. RESULTS: A questionnaire was mailed to 2120 medical specialists; 823 (39%) responded. Of these, 338 (41%) reported involvement in industry-sponsored research in the previous year. They were more likely than others to have been offered industry-sponsored items or activities valued at more than 500 AU dollars (>382 US dollars; odds ratio [OR], 3.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.6-4.7) and support for attending international conferences (OR, 5.4; 95% CI, 3.9-7.4). The strongest associations were seen for acting as a paid consultant to industry (OR, 9.0; 95% CI, 3.9-20.4) and for membership on advisory boards (OR, 6.9; 95% CI, 5.1-9.6). There was a strong relationship between research collaboration and accumulation of industry ties. For 1 additional tie the OR was 2.2 (95% CI, 1.2-3.8) and rose to 6.3 (95% CI, 3.5-11.1) with 3 ties and 41.8 (95% CI, 14.5-143.4) with 6 or more ties. CONCLUSIONS: Medical specialists who have research relationships with the pharmaceutical industry are much more likely to have multiple additional ties than those who do not have research relationships. Institutional review should discourage clinical researchers from developing multiple ties.
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