Conflicts of Interest - Case G2
Dr. Simon Goldberg is a dermatologist and a tenured faculty member
at a research-intensive medical school. When not attending to his
clinical and educational responsibilities, he conducts research into
the mechanisms by which skin tissue heals and repairs itself.
Recently, Dr. Goldberg received a contract from Vanite, a large
cosmetics company whose products are sold worldwide. The U.S. Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) has questioned claims the company makes
concerning one of its leading products, Creme de Jouvence, which
Vanite asserts can repair damage to the skin caused by aging and
exposure to the sun. Vanite stands by this claim, although it is
uncertain which of the many ingredients in the product actually
produces the rejuvenating effect. Therefore, it would like to hire
Dr. Goldberg to investigate this matter. Dr. Goldberg's findings will
be used in Vanite's response to the FDA. As it is under some pressure
to respond in a timely manner, Vanite would like to have the results
of this study as quickly as possible. Whatever Dr. Goldberg finds, he
will receive $250,000 to cover the expenses and salary associated
with the project. However, if he can identify an ingredient that
proves active within nine months, a company representative has
assured Dr. Goldberg that Vanite will hire him again to study the
safety of a new cosmetic ingredient the firm has developed.
- What kinds of incentives are created by the promise of future
- Assume that in order to make the deadline, Dr. Goldberg
enlisted two predoctoral students to assist with the project. To
recruit them for this effort, he told the students that they would
gain valuable exposure and experience from their participation.
What problems might be posed by this situation?
- Vanite is clearly under pressure to support its claims and Dr.
Goldberg is conscious of Vanite's desire to acquire data to help
the company make its case. If you were Dr. Goldberg, what would you
do to retain your objectivity in this study?
- The FDA will scrutinize Dr. Goldberg's research findings. What
impact does this independent review by a government agency have on
your concerns about this contract?
- Assume that Dr. Goldberg has been offered equity holdings in
the company as part of his compensation package. In what ways might
that arrangement influence Dr. Goldberg's objectivity? By what
mechanisms might his objectivity be preserved in spite of that form
- Assume that Dr. Goldberg's university has a rule that precludes
faculty from accepting an equity interest in a company that
supports the faculty member's research. Dr. Goldberg wishes to
accept equity as a form of compensation and opposes the
university's policy. What do you think about this policy? Support
either Dr. Goldberg's position or that of the university.
- Society as a whole has many concerns about the relation between
scientists in academic research institutions and industry. What are
some of the concerns, as you understand them and what principles
should be applied to regulate that relationship?