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Industry Ties Common But Many Patients Unconcerned

About one-third of institutional review board members report financial ties with industry

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of institutional review board (IRB) members report having financial relationships with industry, but most patients in cancer research trials report being unconcerned about financial ties of researchers or institutions with industry, according to the results of two surveys published in the Nov. 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the first study, Eric G. Campbell, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues surveyed 574 IRB members regarding their financial relationships with industry. The researchers found that 36 percent had at least one relationship with industry, although most (85.5 percent) never thought that this relationship affected other members' decisions. Fifteen percent reported that at least one protocol sponsored by their company or a competitor came before their IRB, of which 57.7 percent said they always reported the relationship and 64.5 percent said they never voted on the protocol.

In the second study, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues interviewed 253 patients in cancer research trials regarding their attitudes about financial conflicts of interest with drug companies. The researchers found that more than 90 percent of patients were not concerned, with approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of patients reporting that they would have still enrolled in the trial if researchers had been paid to speak or consult (which most considered ethical), and a similar percentage said the same if the researcher or institution had received royalties or owned stock in the company.

"Trust in the clinical research enterprise is a fragile commodity," Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., from the National Institutes of Health, comments in an accompanying editorial. "We all must work to preserve and protect this public trust, and this will happen only if we make it our priority."

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