Professor Garry Jennings, Director of the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, has responded to recent Croakey posts raising concerns about his organisation’s close ties with industry. It seems there will be no more Baker staff appearing in pharmaceutical advertorials. He writes:
“The Croakey posting on Conflict of Interest points to both the diversity of views and the complex nature of this issue and Baker IDI welcomes a healthy and well informed debate by way of contributing to industry best practice in this area.
Baker IDI takes its ethical commitments very seriously. We are fully compliant with The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and, of course all our research is approved by independent ethics committees.
Much of our work is at the forefront of medical research, and is affected by constantly changing scientific and communication technologies. Codes of conduct can not stand still. They should constantly evolve to respond to the changing needs of society and the challenge of innovation – an opportunity we should not shy away from.
In the instance of our collaboration with Astra Zeneca, it is worth noting that the particular contract governing the Total Cholesterol Study, was the result of an agreement entered into more than four years ago. The study was independently designed and conducted by Baker IDI and was compliant with the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct for clinical trials with full transparency around the funding body. The content of the publication was entirely educational and no products were mentioned.
The Institute is constantly reviewing its policies and procedures to reflect the changing environment within which we operate. As a result, we have changed our organisational policy on staff involvement in industry-sponsored advertorials.
We are fully supportive of the establishment of a conflict of interest committee as well as national guidelines in this area. Moreover, we welcome the NHMRC’s consideration that researchers publicly declare conflicts of interest online.
Our recommendation is that the most effective forum for declaring conflicts of interest is a national, non-partisan registry that takes account of the full spectrum of activity rather than the specific contracts of a single organisation in isolation.
The challenges outlined are shared by the medical research community at large and deserve industry-wide attention to ensure effective design and implementation of reflective national guidelines. We embrace the opportunity to contribute to this important process.”