Assigns failing grades to over half of the U.S. government and professional groups
Toronto, Ontario, Canada -- (ReleaseWire) -- 08/17/2006 --Researchers from Project THAMES, a New York-based medical ethics and advocacy group, today presented results from their work on the “prevalence and characteristics of competing commercial interests among HIV thought leaders,” assigning failing grades to over half of the mostly U.S. government funded groups based on conflict-of-interest prevalence and difficulty in obtaining financial disclosure details. (Printable copy of research poster available at http://www.shillfactor.net/readinglist/research.html)
The U.S. arm of the field’s premier professional society, the International AIDS Society, received the worst scores both because the group makes no attempt at disclosing financial conflicts-of-interest among its members and because, through secondary sources, 100% of its leadership were found to hold extensive consulting and speaking posts with companies who sell HIV drugs and diagnostics.
According to Mike Barr, Project THAMES’ founder and principal author of the research, "While significant steps have been made over the past 2 years, transparency is still the exception rather than the rule in HIV/AIDS research and care.” Specifically, the group is concerned about the difficulty of obtaining conflict of interest information for researchers and physicians at the AIDS Clinical Trials Group research network and the Antiviral Advisory Committee of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
The filing of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request is the only way for the public to gain access to conflict-of-interest disclosures among these groups’ members. The Department of Health and Human Services’ treatment guidelines panel, by contrast, makes disclosure of potential conflicts-of-interest among its members easily obtainable online as a special appendix to its published document.
“Our aim is not to impugn the integrity of any individual researcher or physician but only to hold the field of HIV/AIDS to the same standard of other medical specialties,” THAMES board member and New York City-based AIDS physician, Paul Bellman, explained. “Such widespread commercial ties to industry raise legitimate concerns about the potential for these competing interests to compromise the principles of medical professionalism and patient care.”
About Project THAMES• Founded in March 2005, Project THAMES• (Transparency in HIV Authorship, Medical Education and Scientific Investigation) grew out of nearly 20 years’ experience in the world of AIDS activism, research, clinical care and education and what appeared to be a growing need for research, advocacy and medical education free from the funding streams of pharmaceutical companies and the medical communications companies which serve to broaden and camouflage their reach. While fully acknowledging the contributions of the for-profit pharmaceutical and diagnostics industry to improvements in the medical management of HIV/AIDS, Project THAMES• believes that over time the commercial imperative to increase sales may not always coincide with the patient’s best interest and therefore full transparency of any and all potentially competing outside commercial interests among researchers, educators, thought leaders and conference program committees is the least onerous of proposals to date that would provide some form of ethical oversight. Project THAMES will to standardize disclosure requirements at journals, medical education programs, professional societies, conference program committees and government bioscience entities, and to advocate for more effective monitoring and evaluation. Project THAMES• is a non-profit corporation with 501c(3) status pending.