Tufts withdraws invitation for Grassley aide to speak

Tufts University recently withdrew an invitation for Paul D. Thacker--an investigator for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)--to speak about conflicts-of-interest in medicine at an upcoming conference because of the senator's current investigation of ties between a professor at the school and the drug industry. The professor, Dr. Helen Boucher, is an infectious disease specialist. 

Sheldon Krimsky, cochairman of the ethics committee and one of the conference's organizers, initially sent out an invitation to Grassley to speak, but was turned down by the senator. Then Thacker was invited on Feb. 13; on Feb. 17, Grassley sent a letter to the university asking for "detailed information on the relationship between a 'Dr. Boucher' and the pharmaceutical industry" from January 2006 through December 2008. 

Once the administration at Tufts connected the dots, Krimsky sent another email to Thacker saying that if he spoke, university administrators wouldn't be permitted to serve as panelists, "pending the University's response to the Feb. 17 letter from the Senator." Shortly thereafter, Thacker's invite was rescinded. 

Through his efforts, Grassley is trying to determine the amount of influence drug and device companies have over medical schools. He's currently investigating doctors from Harvard Medical School, Columbia University and Stanford, among other institutions. He also has sponsored the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, requiring drug and devicemakers to publicize any payments to physicians that are more than $500. 

To learn more about this incident:
- here's the Boston Globe story

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