Memorial Sloan Kettering CMO resigns after failing to disclose pharma ties

José Baselga, MD, PhD, medical oncologist, physician-in-chief and CMO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, resigned after reports surfaced claiming he failed to disclose significant financial ties to the drug industry and other healthcare companies in more than 100 research articles, according to The New York Times.

 

Here are eight things to know:

1. The revelations about Dr. Baselga's financial omissions were first disclosed in an analysis by The New York Times and ProPublica Sept. 8. The two news organizations found Dr. Baselga, since he started at Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2013, omitted his industry relationships in about 60 percent of his publications, or more than 100 papers.

2. Dr. Baselga failed to disclose financial ties to Swiss pharma giant Roche and several biotech start-ups in medical journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet.

3. Further, Dr. Baselga has extensive ties to several drug and medical device companies. For example, he sat on the board of Bristol-Myers Squibb and served as a director of Varian Medical Systems, a radiation equipment company. He has also served as a paid consultant for Roche, Novartis, Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca, according to the report. Overall, the Memorial Sloan Kettering physician-in-chief received nearly $3.5 million in payments from drug, medical equipment and diagnostic companies from 2013 to 2017.

4. The investigation found Dr. Baselga violated the American Association for Cancer Research's financial disclosure rules. In the initial report by The Times and ProPublica, Baselga said his lapses in disclosure were unintentional and his industry ties were known to the public.

5. Since the publication of the article, Memorial Sloan Kettering executives have scrambled to contain the fallout. Top executives held several closed-door meetings with physician leaders and its board of directors.

6. Baselga released his resignation letter Sept. 13, saying he feared the media frenzy over his lapse in disclosure would detract from his role in overseeing clinical care at one of the nation's top cancer research hospitals.

"It is my hope that this situation will inspire a doubling down on transparency in our field," Dr. Baselga said in his resignation letter, according to The Times. 

7. Baselga's resignation was effective immediately, and he will not hold any role at the cancer center going forward. He will stay for two weeks to ensure a seamless transition. Lisa DeAngelis, MD, the cancer center's department of neurology chair, will serve as acting physician-in-chief until Dr. Baselga's replacement is hired.

8. In a letter to staff addressing Dr. Baselga's resignation, Memorial Sloan Kettering's CEO Craig Thompson, MD, praised Dr. Baselga's contributions to the cancer center, patients and cancer treatment.

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