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Medical journals’ conflict-of-interest form: Will it be enough?

On Tuesday, the editors of many leading medical journals simultaneously published an editorial that announced they’re adopting a new, uniform conflict-of-interest form for their scientist authors — you know, the people who are supposed to be writing up purely objective, nonbiased study results for the journals.

The form requires that all authors disclose any financial (or nonfinancial) conflicts of interest, including their “associations with commercial entities that provided support for the work reported in the submitted manuscript.”

Journal editors have recently experienced some embarrassing revelations (here’s one) about the nonreported financial conflicts of interests of some of their authors. The editors have been aggressively trying to get a better handle on the problem.

But you have to wonder if a new conflict-of-interest form will be enough. Take the case of Arani Bose, MD, director of stroke research at Lenox Hospital in New York City. He co-authored an article in the June 2009 issue of the Archives of Neurology that described how a thrombectomy (blood-clot removing) device had been used to extract a mass of clotted blood from a stroke patient.

In the letters section of the current (October) issue of the same publication, Bose made this uncomfortable (for him) and astonishing (for the rest of us) admission:

While completing the financial disclosure form provided to me by Archives, I made a mistake, and inadvertently checked the box indicating that I have no relevant financial interest in the manuscript. However, the thrombectomy device, the Penumbra Stroke System, was developed and manufactured by Penumbra Inc, of which I am Founder, Chairman, and Chief Medical Officer. In addition, I have stock ownership in Penumbra Inc, and I am an inventor on pending patents assigned to Penumbra Inc.

Inadvertently? How do you forget you’re the founder, chairman and CMO of the company that manufacturers the device being reported on in the study?

I’ll be generous. Perhaps he couldn’t find his reading glasses when he was filling out the form.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Paul Scott on 10/14/2009 - 09:43 am.

    Boy, you really can’t make this stuff up! Thanks for the excellent post.

  2. Submitted by Rachel Anderson on 10/14/2009 - 12:39 pm.

    Great article, Susan!

  3. Submitted by Jeff Perry on 10/14/2009 - 04:07 pm.

    If only we could get this kind of uniform disclosure from our congressional representatives working on health care reform.

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