The Doc With Undisclosed Conflicts

The chief medical officer at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, Dr. Jose Baselga, forgot to disclose the millions of dollars that he received from Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb and others for his work on cancer therapies and break-through drugs, a requirement of the American Association for Cancer Research. In addition, the compensation and relationships with the drug companies were not disclosed in research articles published in Cancer Discovery. Also, Dr. Baselga did not make the disclosures when he served as editor-in-chief of Cancer Discovery. Charles Ornstein and Katie Thomas, “A Top Doctor Didn’t Disclose Corporate Ties,” New York Times, September 9, 2018, p. A1.

In conferences in 2017 and 2018, Dr. Baselga put positive spins on Roche-sponsored clinical trials without disclosing his Roche ties and compensation. Many physicians considered the trials to be disappointments. Dr. Baselga says that his relationships were public knowledge. And he added what all those whose conflicts are revealed: “While I have been inconsistent with disclosures and acknowledge that fact, that is a far cry from compromising my responsibilities as a physician, as a scientist and as a clinical leader.” In other words, “How could you think that I would ever compromise my integrity as a researcher?” I will give Dr. Baselga that he has more integrity on his research than any physician who has ever walked the earth. That assumption arguendo changes nothing. There was still a conflict, and the only remedies for a conflict are not doing the conduct or disclosure BEFORE the newspapers publish it. The disclosures in the case of research are for us and others so that we can evaluate the design, conduct, and conclusions of the research GIVEN the conflicts. But, we need to know that before we read and analyze, not after.

A Sloan Kettering spokeswoman said that Dr. Baselga had made all the required disclosures about his financial ties to the hospital. However, the spokeswoman also noted that it was Dr. Baselga’s responsibility to make the proper disclosures to the 17 journals in which his work has been published sans those disclosures.

The CEO of Sloan Kettering, Dr. Craig B. Thompson settled lawsuits brought by the University of Pennsylvania and an affiliated research center over a disputed allegation that he hid research conducted while he was at the University of Pennsylvania in order to start a new company on the basis of that research and not have to share the earnings.

When asked about the extensive relationships between physicians at Sloan Kettering and the drug companies, the spokeswoman noted that Sloan Kettering cannot fulfill its charitable mission without working closely with corporations.

The journals noted that they do not have the resources to check on author disclosures and that they rely on “trust and integrity.” Don’t we all? ‘Tis is a shame we simply no longer can.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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