Views & Reviews Personal View

Patients can’t trust doctors’ advice if we hide our financial connections with drug companies

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g167 (Published 15 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g167
  1. Leana Wen, attending emergency physician, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
  1. Wen.Leana{at}gmail.com

Doctors should fully disclose their financial conflicts of interest to patients as part of obtaining informed consent, writes Leana Wen, who was surprised at the backlash she’s had from the profession for campaigning for openness

Just four months into becoming an attending physician, I’ve become an object of hatred. “This is absurd. I am way too busy to spend my time defending myself against some media manufactured crap,” one doctor wrote. “I find your work to be an invasion of my privacy,” another said. “You need to move to Russia or Cuba to practise your type of medicine,” And, more succinctly, “You suck.”

What had I done to incite so much contempt? The short answer was that I started a campaign. The longer answer was that I’d become increasingly troubled by conflicts of interest that are apparent to doctors but hidden from patients. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, 94% of American doctors have some relationship with a drug or medical device company, including payments but also drug samples and industry lunches, for example.1 Dozens of studies have shown that these associations skew research findings and doctors’ prescribing practices.2 3 Although professional codes mean …

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