MSK's José Baselga steps off Bristol-Myers' board as the industry debates the controversy over industry ties
The damage report from the controversy surrounding Memorial Sloan Kettering’s chief physician José Baselga keeps mounting.
Late on Friday came word from Bristol-Myers Squibb that Baselga had resigned from the big biotech’s board of directors.
“Bristol-Myers Squibb $BMY is committed to the highest standards of ethics, compliance and integrity,” noted the company in a brief statement. “These principles are central to the Company’s mission and our ability to deliver innovative medicines to patients with serious disease.”
Baselga had only joined the board 5 months ago.
That resignation came several days after The New York Times and ProPublica reported that the renowned cancer researcher had routinely failed to follow the rules and cite his many financial ties with biopharma companies in journal articles and at conferences, forcing his ouster at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Late Thursday word spread that the article had set off a storm of controversy, triggering a chain reaction of alarm at MSK that prompted the scientist to turn in his letter of resignation. In it, he wrote:
I fear my continued role leading clinical care and research will become too much of a distraction to the hospital and its remarkable team of physicians, researchers and staff.
Baselga, the once highly sought after physician-in-chief at MSK, also accepted responsibility for his failures to disclose his many ties to pharma and biotech companies, adding that those links were also well known and carefully reported to MSK itself.
The news triggered a frenzy of comments on Twitter, with a mix of views on the sudden downfall of a widely celebrated researcher. If nothing else, it will put a spotlight on the growing financial connections between researchers and the industry — and likely trigger a rush to fill in any gaps on disclosures in the coming weeks.
Quite a few people felt that forcing Baselga out at MSK was excessive. But it’s also clear that properly reporting these ties is a serious concern for the industry. We put up a poll for people at the beginning of the week, and drew more than a few harsh rebukes for what he had failed to do.
Out of 447 responses, 330 — 74% — felt his failure to report financial ties was a significant issue. Only 26% felt it was not. Significant, though, meant different things to different people.
Here’s a sampling of the comments we heard:
Image: José Baselga. ASCO