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David RothmanConcerns over conflicts of interest in medicine—both in medical research and in clinical practice—have grown steadily over the past few years. The marketing practices of drug companies, particularly those that involve direct contact with doctors, are falling under increasing scrutiny by state and federal policymakers. A rapid-fire succession of articles questioning the authenticity of scientific studies written by researchers with drug-industry ties —not to mention those financed by the drug companies themselves—have recently appeared in the mainstream press.

David J. Rothman, Ph.D., Bernard Schoenberg Professor of Social Medicine at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession, is a leading expert on medical conflicts of interest. Under the auspices of a project co-sponsored by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, Dr. Rothman has written an analysis of new federal guidelines for physician-pharmaceutical industry exchanges and has developed recommendations for controlling conflicts of interest at academic medical centers. In the January 25, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Rothman co-authored an article on health industry practices that create conflicts of interest, calling for greater disclosure and more stringent regulation of doctor/industry ties and proposing that academic medical centers take the lead in helping eliminate the problem. 

“The data are overwhelming.  Gifts, travel grants, consulting contracts, support for continuing medical education and speaking fees affect which drugs doctors prescribe for their patients,” says Dr. Rothman. “The system has to change, and no one is in a better position to affect change than the academic medical center.”

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