Conflicts, then and now

3 Sep

There is a lot of talk about conflicts of interest in autism.  This is especially true with Dr. Paul Offit’s book, Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure out now.

Consider his letter to the New England Journal of Medicine in May, 2008.

Dr. Offit reports being a co-inventor and co-holder of a patent on the rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq, from which he and his institution receive royalties, as well as serving on a scientific advisory board for Merck. No other potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

In August Dr. Poling responded to that May Letter, and Dr. Offit was able to comment as well. Below is Dr. Offit’s conflict of interest statement.

Yep, that’s right. No statement. In a few short months, the royalties for the RotaTeq vaccine have been settled and Dr. Offit’s tenure as a consultant to Merck has ended. Basically, it’s as we’ve discussed before: Dr. Offit no longer has any financial conflicts of interest in discussing vaccines.

Note this statement about the book from the publisher’s site: He [Offit] will donate all royalties from sales of this book to autism research. I.e. he also doesn’t even have a conflict of interest in promoting his newest book.

I don’t expect all the people who dislike what Dr. Offit has to say to report these facts accurately. I will say that Sharyl Attkisson didn’t repeat the “Offit works for Merck” line, and good for her. I think it is a good assumption that the people who helped her with that story probably did push the “He’s a Merck consultant” idea.

Many people people (and Orac, and Kev, and AutismNewsBeat, to name a few) have gotten it right already, so I shouldn’t be too worried about it. But, as I await the book showing up in my mailbox, I keep thinking about the issue of conflicts of interest and Dr. Offit.

[note: I made a few minor edits after this post went live. They were for clarity and did not change the substance of the post]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: