Memorial Sloan Kettering bars top executives from pharma boards

After several conflict-of-interest scandals, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City will bar top executives from serving on corporate boards of drug and healthcare companies that pay them, according to The New York Times.

Hospital officials said the executive board also finalized a series of reforms designed to limit the way its top executives and researchers could profit from their work at Memorial Sloan.

The policy changes, announced by hospital executives Jan. 11, come as the nonprofit cancer center works to contain the fallout from several conflict-of-interest scandals.

In September 2018, José Baselga, MD, PhD, medical oncologist, physician-in-chief and CMO of Memorial Sloan, resigned from his position after reports surfaced that he failed to disclose significant financial ties to the drug industry and other healthcare companies in more than 100 research articles.

Following Dr. Baselga's resignation, the cancer center's partnership with Paige.AI also came under fire. The AI startup was founded by three insiders at Memorial Sloan, which subsequently granted the company an exclusive deal, presenting a possible conflict of interest.

In October, as more reports surfaced about board memberships held by Memorial Sloan officials, Craig Thompson, the hospital's CEO, resigned from Merck's board. The drugmaker had paid him about $300,000 for his service in 2017.

The policy change is just one of the steps the cancer center said it will take to overhaul its corporate relationships and conflict-of-interest policies..

The hospital board on Jan. 11 also formalized a policy that prohibits board members from investing in startup companies that Memorial Sloan helped to found. In addition, it prevents hospital employees from accepting personal compensation, equity stakes or stock options from corporate boards.

The cancer center also has hired Deloitte and two law firms to help conduct an internal review of faculty membership on corporate boards, participation in companies' scientific advisory boards and all consulting relationships.

"This is highly significant, especially at such a high-profile academic center. Leadership matters, and the institution has decided that their leaders should not also be concurrently leading for-profit health companies," Walid Gellad, MD, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh, told the NYT.

Read the full report here.

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