Physician Heal Thyself (I)

About 10 percent of the nation’s physicians have signed up as consultants to the investment industry, according to the New York Times (Doctors’ Links With Investor Matchmakers Raise Concerns.) There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that except that some of these investors are looking for proprietary data on clinical trials that can affect their sponsors’ valuations. The largest matchmaking company between investors and physicians is Gerson Lehrman. According to a letter from the company’s CEO,

Before participating in our network, all physicians and scientists sign a contract that explicitly states they must not violate any of their confidentiality agreements, must check if they are unsure what those confidentiality obligations are and will be paid for time allocated to a project if they must discontinue it out of any related concerns.

Another problem that troubles some physicians is that consulting assignments can create an appearance of impropriety:

“Whatever you’re making from just being a consultant, just give it up,” said [the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.] “It’s not worth our integrity. Even though you know you’re not doing anything wrong. It’s the perception.”

The fact that relatively large amounts of cash are trading hands has given prominence to this issue, but physicians should think equally hard about their relationships with pharmaceutical companies, even when it just means getting something for free rather than being paid with cash.

August 16, 2005

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