Like many other healthcare fields, the neurotechnology industry depends on a steady flow of information between device manufacturers and the clinical/university research communities. Because this field is so new and encompasses so many distinct medical specialties, access to timely information is important for both groups.
But there is a difference between device manufacturers who provide timely, objective information about new medical products and vendors who would seek to extend undue influence over clinical or research investigators. Two recent publications suggest that it might be time to implement a more stringent code of ethics in the healthcare industry.
The Association of American Medical Colleges recently published a report that recommends that drug and medical device companies should be banned from offering gifts and other benefits to doctors, staff, and students in the nation’s medical schools. “Such forms of industry involvement tend to establish reciprocal relationships that can inject bias, distort decision-making, and create the perception among colleagues, students, trainees, and the public that practitioners are being ‘bought’ or ‘bribed’ by industry,” the report said.
And the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association commented on recent examples from the pharmaceutical industry that show how clinical research has been manipulated by for-profit companies. “Manipulation of studies and misrepresentation of study results could not occur without the cooperation (active and tacit) of clinical researchers, other authors, journal editors, peer reviewers, and the FDA,” the editors wrote. “Public trust for clinical research is in great jeopardy especially when the extent of how widespread such practices have become is unknown.”
The JAMA editors proposed a series of measures to foster greater medical integrity, such as requiring registry of clinical trials with the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and full disclosure of any relationships between all authors and for-profit companies. They also proposed that individual physicians “be free of financial influences of pharmaceutical and medical device companies including serving on speaker’s bureaus or accepting gifts.”
While not all neurotech firms will agree with all the recommendations made by the AAMC and JAMA, we believe that on the whole, measures like these will benefit the neurotechnology industry in the long run. Since many of the companies in our industry are small, startup firms, greater objectivity and neutrality will help them compete on a more level playing field with giant medical firms. And it may also help erase over time the ingrained bias toward pharmaceutical interventions that exists at many regulatory agencies.
Editor and Publisher