Celgene’s $138,000 Doctor Payment Left Off Study Disclosures

Updated on

A cancer doctor failed to disclose in a scientific journal that he had received more than $138,000 in cash and goods from Celgene Corp., even though he was assessing the company’s drug Revlimid.

John Bennett, a professor emeritus at New York’s University of Rochester, requested a correction from the journal Leukemia on Tuesday after being contacted by Bloomberg about the omission, which he said was an oversight.

In the paper, published last year to review the performance of Celgene’s blockbuster Revlimid drug for a blood cancer known as MDS, Bennett declared that he had “no conflict of interest” in the matter. Between August 2013 and the study’s publication in print in May 2014 Bennett received $138,986 in consulting fees and travel compensation, according to data published Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In all, he received more than $145,000 in cash and goods between August 2013 and the end of last year. CMS data only covers the last five months of 2013.

The article, written with eight other authors who all disclosed financial relationships with Celgene, concluded that Revlimid lengthened survival and reduced the risk of cancer progression.

“That research and data collection was under contract” with Celgene, Bennett said by phone, referring to work he did for the paper. “It should have been a disclosure.”

‘Crystal Clear’

The journal Leukemia is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics, whose code of conduct says publications should ensure conflicts of interest are disclosed. The omission was an “egregious failure,” said Laurence McCullough, an ethics professor at Baylor College of Medicine.

“There’s no explanation for it,” he said. “The standard is crystal clear, there’s no doubt about it, so if he didn’t fulfill it the burden of proof is on him.”

Bennett said while he could not recall specifically how the mistake arose, it was “an honest error.”

“This clearly was an error that was missed by me when reviewing the final version and I would like to have a correction issued as a brief letter to the editor in the next available issue,” Bennett wrote in an e-mail to Leukemia, copied to Bloomberg. Bennett has disclosed his financial relationship with Celgene in other papers.

The journal Leukemia, part of the Nature Publishing Group, had no immediate comment. Celgene spokesman Brian Gill declined to comment.