Multiple Sclerosis Patients Want Full Disclosure
Individuals with multiple sclerosis want to know what’s going on behind closed doors concerning drug research for this disease. A new study shows that MS patients want full disclosure concerning the financial relationship between the doctors and the drug companies in pharmaceutical industry-sponsored clinical trials (ISCTs) before they will agree to participate in such research.
Andrew Solomon, MD, a neurologist and MS specialist at the University of Vermont, and his colleagues from several other universities and medical centers, recently reported their findings in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal. They came to this conclusion after reviewing the responses on an anonymous survey completed by 522 individuals with multiple sclerosis.
Participation in clinical trials has the potential to provide benefits for the subjects as well as other current and future patients, along with yielding critical information for the investigators. However, when there are financial relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical companies involved in such research, red flags are raised about bias and the validity of the findings.
If you agree to participate in pharmaceutical industry-sponsored clinical trials (as well as other types of clinical trials), you are provided with information about the study, including its risks, in an informed consent document, which you need to sign before you can participate in the research. However, currently you do not see information concerning potential financial conflicts of interest regarding the participating physicians, such as monies generated by the trial or fees given to the doctors for consulting services or speaking engagements.
According to Solomon, he and his associates decided to conduct this study because “direct industry financial support of physicians, physician practices, and academic departments involved in MS therapy-related multicenter ISCTs are an infrequently acknowledged source of potential physician conflict of interest,” and they wanted to know how individuals with multiple sclerosis felt about this topic.
The authors learned that most of the surveyed individuals with multiple sclerosis believed that it was important for doctor-pharmaceutical company relationships to be disclosed. Respondents also rated monies paid toward the principal investigator’s salary as the most important thing they wanted to know about the physician-drug industry financial relationships.
Solomon and his team, who noted that “avoidance or minimization of potential conflicts of interest is the goal,” also stated that more research is needed on this issue. How do you feel? Do you believe patients have the right to know about potential conflicts of interest before they agree to participate in clinical trials?