Leana Wen, a doctor at George Washington University Hospital, introduces herself to patients like this:

“I’m Dr. Leana Wen. I’m your doctor. I belong to an initiative called ‘Who’s My Doctor?’ that aims for transparency in medicine. I accept no money from drug companies or device companies.

“I do not make any more from ordering more tests or procedures on you, and I also don’t make more for ordering less. I’m telling you this so that you can be sure that everything I do for you is in your best interest.”

A bit awkward as an opening gambit, to be sure, but part of the anti-conflict of interest, full disclosure movement of which Wen has been a part since med school (Wen was president of the indispensable AMSA). As a faculty member at a university whose hospital was recently so rife with conflict of interest at the top that it became a national scandal – it was even put on probation for reasons probably related to its distracted-by-money managers – Wen could not be better placed to draw attention to the still COI-mad profession of medicine.

The major power players of Washington DC are of course particularly prone to market corruptions, as in the latest case of a high-ranking professor/FDA chairwoman having to be pulled back from an embrace with industry:

Dr. Lynn Drake, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and current chairwoman of the panel that advises the FDA on drugs to treat skin and eye conditions, is scheduled to speak at a conference whose stated aim is to help companies “walk away with strategies to successfully present before a committee and avoid potential roadblocks.”

In a letter sent on Thursday to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, founder of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, called on the agency to either require that Drake not attend the meeting, or remove her from her position as chairwoman of the Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee.

… Wolfe said Drake’s participation in the conference, which is being sponsored by PharmApprove, a consulting company, and costs up to $2,199 to attend, “raises concerns that the advisory committee member is approaching the work of the committee from a pro-industry perspective.”

… It is urgent that the FDA develop and articulate a written policy applicable to all advisory committee members to avoid repetition of this type of shameful episode, which could undermine public confidence in FDA advisory committees and in the agency itself,” he said.

Wolfe also drew attention to Drake’s curriculum vita, which is posted on the FDA’s website and which he said contains 32 items that are redacted under an exemption designed to protect trade secrets and other confidential business information. He said he has made a Freedom of Information request for an unredacted copy of the CV, “because the full CV may further elucidate Drake’s background and relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.”

Drake says she had no idea what she was signing up for.

“Either she is naive and signs up for things without knowing very much about them or she actually didn’t know the title of the session she was going to be a speaker on,” [Wolfe] said. “Those things are not really very likely.”

I mean, it’s pretty clear she got caught because Wolfe happened to read a promotional brochure for the conference (which will cost you two thou to attend… or maybe less now…)…


UPDATE: Things don’t look much better these days at GWU’s med school.

Among schools with the weakest [Clinical Conflict of Interest] policies: Saint Louis University School of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Weill Cornell Medical College, University of Nebraska College of Medicine, and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

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2 Responses to “She couldn’t have picked a better medical school – or a better city – from which to launch this.”

  1. Crimson05er Says:

    Not about the medical school, per se, but a funny truism about modern universities from The Onion with GW as the stand-in target this time:

    “College Unveils New Media Center Every Month”

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Crimson05er: Funny!

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