Medical Journal Editor Vows to Cut Drug Firm Ties

From Associated Press

The newly appointed editor of the New England Journal of Medicine is pledging to divest any interest he has in pharmaceutical companies in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest.

Dr. Jeffrey Drazen also said he might have made a mistake last year when he heaped praise on an asthma drug that was made by a company he was working for as a paid consultant.

"We were probably a little overzealous," Drazen told the Boston Herald on Tuesday. "In the future, we'll be more careful."

Drazen, an asthma specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, takes over as editor July 1.

A year ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a "notice of violation" against Sepracor Inc., the maker of the drug, levalbuterol.

Drazen was paid by Sepracor to evaluate studies on the drug. He concluded the product was the "first real advance in rescue asthma therapy in over 20 years."

Sepracor used Drazen's praise to promote the drug. But the FDA found the statement overstated the safety and efficacy of the product.

In an interview Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Drazen also said he would remove himself from any editorial meetings involving companies with which he has worked.

Drazen has had financial ties with at least 21 drug companies since 1994, the Herald reported.

He is replacing interim editor Dr. Marcia Angell, whose May 18 editorial "Is Academic Medicine for Sale?" criticized doctors who place profits first.

Drazen said the answer to the question posed by the editorial was no. He said academic researchers must work closely with these companies to remain up to date on new drugs as they come into the market.

"There's no way around it," he said.

The key is for doctors running the clinical trials on the drugs to have no financial interest in the outcome, he said.

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