Dr. Pearl’s 3-Part Series on Conflicts-of-Interest in Forbes, August 2014

Recently, Dr. Pearl published a 3-part series in Forbes about the issue of conflicts-of-interest in medical research. He warns against financial bias in research and explains the pervasive negative impact this has on patient care.

These lessons were intrinsic in development of the medical group’s conflict-of-interest policy. In addition, the medical group created our own educational framework that is completely independent of vendors. This ensures that Permanente physicians learn about pharmacological advances and improvements in devices in an unbiased way.

Thanks to Dr. Pearl and other leaders in the medical group, we maintain the most thorough and effective policy on conflict-of-interest in the country – better than policies at most medical schools and academic hospitals and medical centers. Our pre-paid, integrated structure and strong physician leadership helped us accomplish what most physicians outside of our medical group simply do not undertake.

“Our physicians decided that preserving the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship, and the trust of our patients, was paramount,” explained Dr. Pearl.

How Manufacturer-Funded Research Compromises Patient Care
Forbes Blog, 07/24/14
Research advances medicine but conflicts of interest can corrupt outcomes and compromise patient care. Physicians rely on published data to determine the best treatment for their patients. But the manufacturer of a drug or medical device funds most studies. This often leads to biased results. When information is contaminated by inappropriate influence, doctors can’t provide the best possible care. Dr. Pearl recommends several ways to eliminate the manufacturer-researcher relationship from a study’s equation.

When Money Motivates Cancer Treatment Options
Forbes blog, 7/31/14
Medical research can be biased when doctors own their own diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Most doctors are mission-driven people who strive to do what’s best for their patients. Those who train for years to help people wouldn’t knowingly compromise a patient’s well-being for financial gain. But when doctors and hospitals make large capital investments in their own medical equipment, even well-meaning professionals tend to favor approaches that benefit their bottom line. Instead, use of newer technologies in the right clinical situations can deliver superior results while reducing costs.

Are Oncologists Recommending The Best Treatments For Patients?
Forbes Blog, 8/7/14
At present, many oncologists continue the lucrative practice of administering chemotherapy under a “buy and bill” reimbursement scheme. The cost of recently approved drugs often exceeds $5,000 to $10,000 per month. Private insurance companies have to pay for what is prescribed. As a result, many oncologists have substantially increased their practice income with reimbursements from reselling the drugs they administer to patients. The result of this “buy and resell” practice contributed to a rapid escalation in cost of cancer care – both to insurers and public payers like Medicare – with minimal changes in cancer survival rates. As a nation, we need to move from a “buy and bill” approach to a system where an oncologist’s income is independent of the drug treatment chosen. For every clinical specialty, the interests of the patient need to come first. A patient’s cancer treatment deserves to be at the top of the list.