From: Charles Medawar
Date: 20 November 1998  08:39
To: [email protected]
Re: MGH Codes on scientific integrity, research conduct, conflicts of interest etc


Ronald S. Newbower, PhD
Senior Vice-President for Research & Technology
Massachusetts General Hospital

Dear Dr Newbower,

Re: Research publications involving Drs J R Rosenbaum and M Fava (MGH Dept Psychiatry)

Thanks to the MHG website, I have some idea of the scope and purpose of the above-mentioned MGH Codes, and what I have seen prompts me to write to you in connection with two recently published clinical evaluations, conducted on behalf of the Eli Lilly Corporation, by the above-mentioned Hospital employees.

The basis of my concerns will be outlined in a series of postings to our website, and it occurs to me that some of them might also concern the guardians of MGH's high standards. Given the guidelines date from 1994, and that determinations in individual cases depend essentially on Committee discretion, I am in no position to allege that either of the two doctors involved has in any way transgressed any MGH Code. On the other hand I do think this case raises important questions about the responsibilities of authorship, the extent to which individual researchers should contract with, and might be rewarded by, individual companies transparently pursuing some marketing advantage; and the lowest acceptable limits of scientific integrity.

Perhaps because I am not a trained or qualified scientist of any description, I find it especially hard to accept Dr Rosenbaum's involvement in two clinical studies whose designs suggest at least some major seal of approval from the company's marketing department. One study employed what was claimed to be a 'gold standard' methodology for detecting certain shortcomings in competing products; the other used a transparently inadequate methodology for searching out the same shortcoming in the sponsor's products. It's hardly cricket.

The attachment has already been posted to our website and installments will follow that elaborate these concerns. This letter to you will also be posted, in due course, as would any reply. If you, or either Dr Rosenbaum or Dr Fava, felt it would be helpful to explain or clarify any of the queries that arise, we would be very pleased to publish your comments.

If you feel these issues are worth enquiring into, perhaps you would be kind enough to explain this to Drs R & F. I didn't think it appropriate to approach them directly in view of their apparently close relationship with Eli Lilly. They might have been constrained in responding on matters which affect the company as well.

I hope you will not regard this enquiry as an assault. The issues are surely matters of public interest, and I would hope you could accept also that even this rather abrupt approach is compatible with best practice in journalism: it does provide some space to think and offers the fullest rights of reply.

Thank you for your attention. I hope to hear from you.

Charles Medawar


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