CT cancer study financial ties causes NEJM to change disclosure policy

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The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has changed its financial disclosure procedures, after taking criticism from a U.S. accreditation group for failing to disclose that the author of a lung cancer CT screening study had financial ties to a cigarette manufacturer and a patent license with GE Healthcare.

The journal now asks authors to disclose all patents or royalties related to their research, and it will publish such information with the studies, according to a letter from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), published in the Cancer Letter.

The original study, published by NEJM on Oct. 26, 2006, claimed that the I-ELCAP regimen of CT screening and follow-up in current and former smokers could prevent 80 percent of lung cancer deaths.

The controversy ignited when the ACCME faulted the journal and its publisher, the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), for failing to disclose that the study, led by Claudia Henschke, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, was underwritten in part by a $3.6 million grant from the parent company of the Liggett Group, a cigarette maker.

The authors of that study did disclose to the journal that she and her university had also licensed a patent related to CT screening to GE Healthcare, however, the NEJM did not disclose the existence of the patent to its readers, reported the NY Times.

Since the disclosures have been revealed, Henschke has published a clarification, regarding the selection process, which led to false survival rates in the initial trial, and the NEJM has called for more transparency from authors of studies submitted to the journal.

As is customary with much research, the MMS offered doctors educational credit for reading and answering questions about the lung cancer study. Such educational efforts must be accredited by the continuing education accreditation council, according to the NY Times.

“The MMS was found in non-compliance with the ACCME Standards for Commercial Support because the MMS procedures failed to identify, and therefore resolve and disclose, relevant financial conflicts of interest of the authors of an article on which a CME activity was based,” wrote Steve Singer, ACCME director of education, monitoring and improvement, in a statement to the Cancer Letter.