Seroquel, Sex, and Conflict of Interest
How refreshing! A story about conflict of interest in Big Pharma that’s not about money!
Here’s the story, from BNET Pharma: AstraZeneca’s Sex-for-Studies Seroquel Scandal: Did Research Chief Bias the Science?
An AstraZeneca executive in charge of clinical research on Seroquel had sexual affairs with a researcher and a study writer, plaintiffs in a Florida lawsuit claim. BNET first wrote about the sex-for-secrets aspect of the Seroquel litigation on Feb. 17.
Now Furious Seasons blogger Philip Dawdy revealed a dynamite legal filing describing how Dr. Wayne MacFadden, AZ’s former US medical director for Seroquel and director clincial research in CNS had affairs with a clinical researcher who authored publications favorable to Seroquel, and a medical marketer who promoted Seroquel through medical publications and other means.
Can a sexual relationship put someone in a conflict of interest? Sure. Remember, a COI is just a situation where someone (the clinical researcher in this case) is expected to exercise judgment on behalf of others, and has some “other” interest (e.g., in continuing a sexual relationship) that stands to bias his or her judgment. The court filings suggest that this wasn’t exactly a marginal case, either:
The nature of their communications suggest a level of control and dependence between Macfadden and these women.
The IOP researcher suggested that Macfadden would ‘punish’ her if she even looked at studies that were favorable to Seroquel’s competitors. He actively encouraged her to conduct research the results of which would be favorable to Seroquel and AstraZeneca, and promised sexual favors in exchange for intelligence on Astrazeneca’s competitiors.
Seriously, it is refreshing to see a conflict of interest story that doesn’t have money at its core. It’s worth reminding ourselves that while money may be reputed to be the “root of all evil,” in real life human judgment is in fact subject to a whole range of biasing influences.