Sheila Burke: Conflicted Over What a Conflict Is

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  • 04/19/2007
Here is Sheila Burke in her NEJM article describing the IOM Drug Safety panel she chaired:

"The IOM assembled a diverse panel of experts without ostensible bias or conflict of interest, none of whom were pharmaceutical industry employees."

Here is a description of Sheila Burke chairing the Smithsonian, which oversaw the conduct of Larry Small who used millions of taxpayer dollars to redo his home and hold lavish parties:

The Smithsonian Institution last year renewed a contract giving the Chubb Group more than a half-million dollars of insurance business annually while Lawrence M. Small, then the Smithsonian secretary, and Sheila P. Burke, the deputy secretary, held highly paid seats on Chubb's board of directors.

Small received cash and stock valued at $169,675 from Chubb last year, according to proxy statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also received options to purchase 105,943 shares.

Burke received cash and stock valued at $194,676 from Chubb and options to purchase 56,000 shares, according to the SEC. Small and Burke sit on Chubb's compensation committee. Burke is also a member of Chubb's finance committee and pension and profit-sharing committee.

Small, who resigned late last month after seven years at the helm of the Smithsonian in the wake of questions about his salary and expenses, was set to receive $915,698 from the museum complex this year. Burke received $400,000 last year. A Senate committee holds hearings on Smithsonian compensation practices today. And another Senate committee investigation has raised questions about the Chubb-Smithsonian relationship."

Earlier this year Burke told me that a Nobel Prize winner would have been excluded from her IOM panel if he or she had worked for a drug company even if that person was an expert on drug safety. But I guess having someone rebuked by NIH for claiming a link between cancer and blood pressure meds and a hired gun for trial lawyers suing drug companies in drug safety cases is ok (Bruce Psaty) and taking money from a health insurer that would benefit from fewer new drug approvals is ok too.

Can we say ethically confused and compromised.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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