Top UCLA surgeon is demoted after failing to disclose conflicts of interests

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 29 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3071
  1. Nayanah Siva
  1. 1London

    A top orthopaedic surgeon from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has been demoted after failing to disclose financial links with the medical companies whose products he was researching.

    The Wall Street Journal (, 22 Jul, “Surgeon faces probe of research”) reports that Jeffrey Wang allegedly failed to tell the university about payments of $459 500 he received between 2004 and 2007 from the companies. Charles Grassley, the US Republican senator who has pursued unreported payments by drug companies to doctors and researchers, is said to have written to the university’s vice chancellor about the payments.

    Professor Wang was removed from his position as director of UCLA’s Comprehensive Spine Center. He remains at the university but is currently undergoing an internal investigation by the university.

    In a statement the university said: “UCLA has appointed an independent committee charged with reviewing whether any of the potential conflicts-of-interests identified have in any way affected the research performed and if there are any mitigating actions needed to ensure the integrity of the research results.”

    Professor Wang is a professor of orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery at UCLA, with special interests in the surgical treatment of neck and back disorders, in particular cervical spine surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and treatment of lumbar degenerative disorders. He was also working in phase I clinical trials to test whether the anatomical facet replacement system was more effective in treating spinal stenosis than posterior spinal fusion control.

    Professor Wang had repeatedly failed to disclose his conflicts of interests on forms that are filed with the state and the medical school. He is said to have received consulting payments, stock options, and royalties from five companies on whose products he was conducting research: DePuy Spine (a unit of Johnson & Johnson), Facet Solutions, Paradigm Spine LLC, FzioMed, and Medtronic.

    The university said, “UCLA has seen no indication of research misconduct as defined by federal regulation, only a failure by Dr Wang to make timely reports of financial interests, and we are evaluating an appropriate action against him in connection with these omissions. As an initial step, the University of California has sent a complete copy of UCLA’s response to Senator Grassley to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the body which oversees conflict of interest matters in California.

    In addition to these actions the school of medicine at UCLA has developed and implemented a new faculty disclosure process that supplements the annual disclosure of outside activities and is now part of the school of medicine’s salary negotiations process. “We are also reviewing policies and procedures to identify appropriate enhancements that will better support management of conflicts of interest,” said the school in a statement.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3071

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