The University of MinnesotaâÄôs administration is doing a full court press against the existence of conflicts of interest. Academic Health Center vice president Frank Cerra wrote in a recent e-mail to the AHC that, âÄúIâÄôd like to make a couple of points loud and clear. Yes, the faculty within the Academic Health Center âÄ¦ have relationships with industry. Our new ideas, our discoveries would never go anywhere if there werenâÄôt a company willing to develop or manufacture the results of our work âÄ¦ And, yes, our faculties âÄ¦ are compensated for their time and work.âÄù The following day, the Minnesota Daily published an AP article that revealed the Department of PsychiatryâÄôs chair S. Charles Schulz inaccurately hyped the antipsychotic drug Seroquel when the companyâÄôs own data showed it to be, at best, equivalent to a competitorâÄôs cheaper drug. Schulz was a highly paid consultant for the company. The article also reported that, âÄúThe dean of the medical school, Dr. Deborah Powell, is aware of the controversy and has offered Schulz her full support âÄ¦ âÄù It is not a shock that Powell, who receives compensation from Pepsi, does not acknowledge that conflict of interest. But she should acknowledge a problem. Meanwhile, Cerra casts the debate in dichotomous terms. Cerra frequently argues as if the UniversityâÄôs only choice were between accepting lucrative consulting sums from industry or cutting ties with industry altogether. But the Medical School can have relationships with industry without acting as its spokespeople and without accepting lucrative consulting fees. The public recognizes a problem in medicine. Of 42 comments in a Star Tribune article about Schulz, nearly all express outrage. People are far more suspicious of pharmaceutical representative and physician interactions than are physicians themselves. That makes sense because, in the end, it is the patient who pays the price. Josh Lackner is a Medical School student. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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