Doctors need at least eight years of higher education and another seven years training in a residency and fellowship before they can really practice on their own in their field. That’s just one reason why we, as patients, put our trust – and quite literally our lives – in their hands.
Drugs, treatments, diagnoses, and everything else that goes into treating our symptoms are quite complicated so we rely on their expertise to make us well. Unfortunately, this is also a business and like all businesses, there’s the motivation to make money. The lack of accountability and financial perks have created a serious conflict of interest between research doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the medical professionals who rely on these studies to address their patients.
Why You Should Care About Medical Study Research
Okay, I admit it: I never even thought about how drugs or medical devices were put on the market until recently. Like most people, I didn’t have the time to care and I also figured that’s what my doctor is for. But the deeper I dug, the more I learned that millions of people are getting injured – and are even dying – because drugs and medical devices aren’t being properly tested.
Here’s one example: transvaginal mesh (TVM) was never tested in a vagina before it was put into millions of women’s vaginas. Johnson & Johnson paid the inventor of TVM, Swedish obstetrician and gynecologist Ulf Ulmsten, $1 million to prove TVM’s safety and effectiveness. Who wouldn’t do everything they could to skew the results in their favor? Now hundreds of thousands of women are living with pain, have broken relationships, and suffer from other complications due to this bad medical device.
The Core Conflict
Doctors don’t have the time or funding to do the research themselves, so they rely on experts in their respective fields to test new drugs and medical devices and to report the benefits and risks so they can best treat their patients. Like the TVM example, many researchers are getting funding and kickbacks for publishing papers promoting a certain drug or medical device in medical journals or for speaking at conferences. The main problem is the lack of transparency on the part of many doctors who fail to disclose that they are funded by the pharmaceutical company. The New York Times reported that, “Dr. Jeffrey R. Botkin, an associate vice president for research at the University of Utah, recently argued… that researchers should face misconduct charges when they do not disclose their relationships with interested companies. ‘They really are falsifying the information that others rely on to assess that research,’ he said. ‘Money is a very powerful influencer, and people’s opinions become subtly biased by that financial relationship.’”
We, as patients, need to demand more accountability and transparency in the medical world. Researchers need to disclose their relationship with pharmaceutical companies so our doctors can take the information with a grain of salt to fully understand the capabilities and risk factors for the treatments they are prescribing. The more products a company sells, the more money it makes. We should be treated with the drug or device that works best, not offers the biggest perk.