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November 1, 2000

Conflict of Interest and the Public Trust

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Dr DeAngelis is Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2000;284(17):2237-2238. doi:10.1001/jama.284.17.2237

This issue of THE JOURNAL contains a cluster of articles that address students', residents', and faculty members' conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical and other companies that financially sponsor teaching and research. Why is this important? University-based educators and researchers, as well as private practitioners, are in frequent contact with representatives from for-profit companies that provide "gifts" and financial support for teaching and research. The enticement begins very early in a physician's career: for my classmates and me, it started with black bags. Dr Kassirer's colleague1 is not alone in remembering which pharmaceutical company provided them. The timing of presenting the black bags early in our first year was wonderfully strategic, as was the inscription of our names on each. I must admit I was very happy to finally have a real symbol of the medical profession after so many hours of what seemed like year 5 of college. It took me a few days to come back to reality and store the bag in my closet. I'm not sure what happened to it, but I never carried it after that first day. On the other hand, at that time I did not have the courage to publicly state my unease with the unearned "gift."

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