Criticism of NEJM’s Defense of Industry-Physician Relations

Written by Susan Molchan, MD, a psychiatrist in the Washington, DC, area and member of the NPA FDA Task Force

In the first of a series of pieces, New England of Journal of Medicine national correspondent Dr. Lisa Rosenbaum wrote, “Reconnecting the Dots – Reinterpreting Industry-Physician Relations.” (You really should read this piece to get its full impact.) The piece was supported by a plug from NEJM editor Dr. Jeffrey Drazen.

Dr. Rosenbaum makes a nice try at reinterpreting financial conflicts between physicians and pharma, but however one twists and turns it, the dots still reconnect into dollar signs. She asks, “Have stories about industry greed so permeated our collective consciousness that we have forgotten that industry and physicians often share a mission — to fight disease?” Is Dr. Rosenbaum’s consciousness so clouded as to think that pharmaceutical companies don’t exist first and foremost to make money? That their primary responsibility is not to their shareholders? It’s true that a means to this end is fighting disease, (including new “diseases,” tailored to one’s drug), but this should not be confused or conflated with the primary mission of (hopefully most) physicians.

I and many others suggest that the “stories about industry greed” have not permeated enough, and that this problem has polluted much of medical research and medical practice, to the point where trust of the medical research enterprise has been eroded. Read more.

Originally published May, 14, 2015 on