To the Editor: Drs Gelijns and Thier1 argue that the relationship between university
and industry should be reconsidered by "balancing risks against benefits"
and then, in an apparent contradiction, urge university and industry "to maximize
the upsides of collaboration and minimize the downsides," a premise they adopt
by disregarding several substantive conflicts of interest. For example, the
past decade has seen a growing number of university presidents and medical
leaders who accept appointments to health-related corporate boards of directors,
thus assuming fiduciary responsibilities on behalf of their stockholders.
This role is in direct conflict with student and patient welfare and the overall
mission of the university, not to mention the message it sends to faculty,
researchers, and physicians. Angell2 asks,
"How can they [academic medical institutions] justify rigorous conflict-of-interest
policies for individual researchers when their own ties are so extensive?"
She also warns, "The incentives of the market-place should not become woven
into the fabric of academic medicine."
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