Harvard docs punished for conflict of interest violations; ties to pharma

Physicians and drug makers walk a fine line when it comes to their relationships with each other. For three psychiatrists affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, they crossed it when they violated conflict of interest rules, reports the Boston Globe.

Although Joseph Biederman, Thomas Spencer, and Timothy Wilens said their actions were "honest" mistakes, Mass General and Harvard determined that their financial ties with the pharma industry "violated certain requirements'' of the institutions' policies, the three doctors said in a letter to employees. Those policies require that affiliates report industry-sponsored activities to the University, notes the Harvard Crimson.

"We now recognize that we should have devoted more time and attention to the detailed requirements of these policies and to their underlying objectives," wrote the doctors.

Mass General and Harvard's three-year investigation stemmed from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) accusing the three doctors of accepting millions of dollars in consulting fees from drug companies from 2000 to 2007 and not disclosing the full amount they had earned.

By violating the institutions' conflict of interest policies, the three doctors are now barred from all paid industry-sponsored work for one year. For two years after that, they must get approval for any industry-paid activities. In addition to undergoing additional training, the doctors will be delayed for consideration for promotions or other career advancements, according to the letter.

For more:
- read the doctors' letter (.pdf)
- here's the Boston Globe article
- check out the Harvard Crimson article