Fewer Oncologists Have Financial Ties to Pharmaceutical Companies

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Deborah C. Marshall, MD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Open Payments has brought sweeping change to medicine by introducing transparency to physician relationships with industry. We have seen its impact on oncology through the recent media attention to high-profile physicians in oncology scrutinized for their failure to disclose industry relationships and through the resulting changes to conflict of interest policies of clinical, professional and research organizations in recent months.

We wanted to better understand the impact of Open Payments on individual physician behavior due to the important ethical and policy implications.  We have a cohort of oncology physicians that we followed from the inception of Open Payments to see whether the implementation and increasing awareness of Open Payments have resulted in fewer physicians engaging with industry and has shifted payments towards those considered more appropriate.

The study is important because we evaluate trends at the physician-level to explore the impact of Open Payments on how physicians interact with industry, which is difficult to measure. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The most important finding is that oncology physician interactions with industry are decreasing, which we interpret as being due to the effect of Open Payments.  Notably, we do not see large shifts in the types of payments yet, which suggests that transparency alone may not be enough to significantly alter behavior.  Moreover, while there has been a decrease in oncology physicians interacting with industry, the number and value of these interactions has not shifted greatly, which should reassure those who were concerned that this type of transparency program would have a negative impact on beneficial industry interactions.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We are likely going to see the continued impact of Open Payments over time as the downstream effects of transparency become apparent, which warrants ongoing attention to help guide future policy-making.  Engaging stakeholders in these discussions, as well as investigating the impact of industry relationships on how physicians are providing care, conducting and reporting research, and educating future doctors are relevant areas of further research.  Also, there is increasing financial interest in oncology so addressing the risk associated with financial interactions with industry and conflicts of interest are more important than ever. 

Citation: 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting  June 1 2019

Trends in financial relationships between industry and individual medical oncologists in the United States from 2014 to 2017: A cohort study.

Author(s): Deborah Catherine Marshall, Elizabeth Stieglitz Tarras, Kenneth Rosenzweig, Deborah Korenstein, Susan Chimonas; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY; New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY

https://abstracts.asco.org/239/AbstView_239_258191.html 

Jun 3, 2019 @ 12:45 am

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Lack of Random Allocation of Participants May Make Observational Research Misleading

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Andrew Grey, MD
Department of Medicine
University of Auckland
Auckland, New Zealand

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Grey: Observational research is commonly conducted and often published in prominent medical journals, leading to reporting of the results by news media. Because of methodological limitations, in particular the absence of random allocation of participants to the interventions being studied, observational studies cannot be used to draw conclusions about causality. We wondered whether these important study limitations were apparent in news reporting of observational studies.

Our analysis demonstrated low levels of reporting of limitations of observational research in the Abstract section of published papers and accompanying journal press releases, and in news stories generated in response to publication of the research. The reporting of the limitation that causal inferences could not be drawn was very low.

Failing to identify and report limitations of observational research might promote the initiation and/or continuation of medical practices based on low level evidence.

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