Study: On institutional review boards, conflicts of interest persist

A study from Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital found roughly one-third of members of institutional review boards that oversee medical research have a relationship with healthcare or pharmaceutical industries, and this percentage remains unchanged from 2005, The Boston Globe reported.

These relationships often include research grants, consulting fees and paid speaking engagements.

One of the main reasons conflicts of interest continue to be an issue is that decreased federal funding is increasingly pushing research institutions to partner with private companies to fund research, according to the report. Plus, many institutions find board members with industry experience can be an asset to understanding industry relationships, according to the report.

Many teaching hospitals and medical schools have worked to reduce conflicts of interest, but as author of the study Eric G. Campbell, PhD, told The Boston Globe, "Our data suggests that members are not clear on what kinds of relationships form conflicts."

He also noted that board members frequently do not extract themselves from situations in which a conflict of interest exists.

The good news? Many of the most taboo relationships — like pharmaceutical companies paying scientists for promotions — are dwindling, according to the report.


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