MS Patients Are Influenced by Their Physicians' Industry Relationships

Patients with multiple sclerosis are influenced by their physicians' relationships with pharmaceutical companies and industry-sponsored clinical trials.

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) want to know the details of their physicians’ relationships with industry sponsored clinical trials (ISCTs), according to findings published in Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

Researchers from the University of Vermont College of Medicine conducted an online anonymous survey of nearly 600 MS patients in the United States in order to understand attitudes of patients with MS concerning their physicians’ ISCTs and if there is a conflict of interest created by clinical trials. The investigators were also interested in finding out how physicians’ disclosures of their involvement with ISCTs would influence study participation. Patients surveyed included ISCT participants and those who had not participated.

The researchers defined disclosures of potential physician conflicts of interest as revenue generated by ISCTs and compensation for speaking engagement or consulting services. This disclosure is generally not included in the clinical trial informed consent or documentation practices — one reason that the researchers of this study kept the online surveys anonymous, to gauge attitudes of the MS patients.

The participants indicated MS patients want to know the details of their physicians’ relationships with ITSCs. Additionally, the decisions MS patients make to participate in clinical trials for new MS therapies may be influenced by their physicians’ disclosure of financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

“Physician-industry collaborations have advanced important scientific knowledge and helped develop new therapies that have significantly improved the lives of patients with MS,” study leader Andrew Solomon, MD, said in a press release. “However, direct industry financial support of physicians, physician practices, and academic departments involved in MS therapy related multicenter ISCTs are an infrequently acknowledged source of potential physician conflict of interest, so we wanted to gauge patients’ perspective on the issue.”

Generally, participants tended toward believing disclosure of a physician and pharmaceutical industry relationship was important. The participants rated clinical trial compensation for physicians or principal investigator salary among the most important types of the physician/ industry financial relationships.

“While our study demonstrates the importance of disclosure of information concerning physician conflicts of interest in MS ISCTs to potential participants, our findings — drawn from a single survey – are limited,” Solomon continued. “More research on patient perspectives on this important issue, as well as how to most effectively incorporate this information into the consent process for research studies, is needed.”

In the conclusion of their paper, the authors stressed the importance for standardization and transparency within the physician/ patient relationship in regards to financial disclosures. They believed “avoidance or minimization of potential conflicts of interest is the goal.”