Memorial Sloan Kettering execs fostered culture of profits over patients, external review finds

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An outside review found that top officials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City repeatedly violated financial conflict of interest policies, which created a culture where profits appeared to take priority over research and patient care, according to a joint article published by The New York Times and ProPublica.

In the last few months, Memorial Sloan Kettering has worked to contain the fallout from intensifying scrutiny over several potential conflicts of interest, including its executives' financial ties to drug and healthcare companies.

In one instance, one of its top researchers and former CMO José Baselga, MD, PhD, failed to disclose significant financial ties to the drug industry and other healthcare companies in more than 100 research articles. A partnership with an artificial intelligence startup, founded by three insiders at the cancer center, also came under fire.

The outside review, conducted by law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, found that in multiple instances top officials violated or skirted their own policies. In addition, the firm found that when hospital leaders had ties to outside companies, those potential conflicts of interest were not critically examined and were instead discussed ad hoc. Researchers were often unaware that senior executives had financial stakes in the outcomes of their studies, the review found.

Memorial Sloan Kettering executives were debriefed on the outside review at a staff meeting this week. After acknowledging flaws in its oversight of potential conflict of interest violations, the leadership team announced it would undertake an extensive overhaul of policies.

The outside review is just one of the several steps taken by the cancer center in the wake of reports that surfaced last year that several top executives and board members had profited from relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

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