Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Competing Financial Interests: The Name of the Game in Therapeutic Research and Development

Lately there's been some talk on the bayblab regarding the ethics and implications surrounding the funding of "public research" by private sector companies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of drug development, in fact, private funding is what drives the whole field. Moving preclinical candidate drugs into and beyond clinical trials requires some heavy-duty cash (we're talking hundreds of millions to billions of dollars), the kind of cash that is hoarded by private sector investors and corporations. Of course, clinical trials don't run themselves, hence the need for comapanies to compensate researchers and physicians for their efforts in order to make the trials happen. Even knowing this, I was blown away by the list of competing financial interests declared at the end of a recent 5-year follow up study of Gleevec (a great new leukemia drug that really works) which was published in the ultimate of all medical journals, The New England Journal of Medicine (click on the image at right to read the list.). The authors of the study are obviously pulling in some serious cash in the form of consulting and lecture fees, from multiple drug companies. Of course this is all above and beyond the undoubtedly "adequate" salaries they are paid as staff physicians at the medical institutions and hospitals which employ them. Alas, the ethical world of medical research is anything but black-and-white. That said, as long as effective new drugs like Gleevec get developed and become available to the people who need them, I guess the system is working.