Pharma, Hospitals

Report: Top oncologist failed to disclose industry financial relationships

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Dr. Jose Baselga, a top breast cancer doctor, omitted relationships from journal articles, including more than $3 million in payments from Roche, The New York Times and ProPublica reported.

A high-profile cancer doctor omitted financial ties with drugmakers and other healthcare companies worth millions of dollars from publications in top-drawer medical journals, according to a news report.

The New York Times and nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica reported Saturday that Dr. Jose Baselga, chief medical officer at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, did not disclose payments from companies despite rules requiring that he do so that are set by the American Association for Cancer Research, of which he had served as president.

Baselga failed to disclose ties in journals like the AACR’s own Cancer Discovery, along with The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, the Times and ProPublica reported. These included more than $3 million in payments over several years from Swiss drugmaker Roche, for consults and also for a drug company Roche acquired in which he owned a stake.

A spokeswoman for the cancer center was quoted as saying that Baselga had properly informed MSKCC of his industry relationships, and it was his responsibility to inform other entities. However, the cancer center also sent an email to employees telling them to “do a better job” reporting such relationships. Baselga himself told the news organizations that the disclosure lapses were unintentional. Baselga is considered one of the top breast cancer doctors in the world.

Although physicians often conduct research studies and develop new drugs and devices and may also invest in companies or own testing facilities and treatment centers. However, according to an article last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, conflicts of interest arise when their relationships with other people, groups or businesses affect their ability to act in the best interests of a person or group, such as their patients. This may include instances where physicians believe they are acting without bias.

For example, a study that JAMA published in July highlighted the role of physician conflicts of interest in Medicare spending on Mallinckrodt’s topical drug HP Acthar Gel, finding that 88 percent of physicians who had prescribed the drug to patients had received monetary payments from the company, including 20 percent who received payments worth more than $10,000. Originally approved in the 1950s, Acthar – known generically as corticotropin – is used to treat exacerbations of multiple sclerosis, along with rheumatic, collagen, dermatologic, allergic, opthalmic, respiratory and edematous diseases.

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