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Big Pharma influence on academic medical centers exposed

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The potentially too cozy and extremely profitable relationship between big pharmaceutical companies (Big Pharma) and the board of directors of academic medical centers was detailed in an April 1, 2014, article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by Dr. Timothy S. Anderson of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and colleagues.

The researchers found that the majority of large pharmaceutical companies have at least one or more members of the board of directors of academic medical centers serving as members on the pharmaceutical company board of directors.

Academic medical centers were defined as medical schools, health professional schools, teaching hospitals, and health care systems for the purposes of the investigation. Academic medical center leadership positions included chief executive officers, clinical department chairs, division directors, medical school deans, hospital boards of directors, university presidents, and university board of directors.

The investigation included the 50 largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the United States. Ninety-four percent of U. S. pharmaceutical companies had at least one board member from academic medical centers in 2012. The average compensation for the board member from academic medical centers provided by pharmaceutical companies was $312,564.

The researchers do not implicate any person or company in any illegal activity but do point out that the position of being a pharmaceutical board member responsible for profit is potentially an avenue for the direction of research that is often funded by taxpayer dollars. The investigators also point out that there is little to no oversight of the activity except for the mandate of disclosure of the relationship.