Human Greed – System Failure –
Sept. 14, 2018 – The latest scandal marks an especially sad failure to meet those ideals. In statements to industry analysts and the American Association for Cancer Research, Dr. Baselga praised two drug trials that many of his peers considered failures, without mentioning that the trials’ sponsor, Roche, had paid him millions of dollars. He also withheld his financial conflicts from dozens of publications, including at least one journal that he edited.
Those conflicts touched his own institution directly, in that several of the companies he advises have business with Memorial Sloan Kettering. Both Varian Medical Systems, which sells the hospital radiation equipment, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, which sells it medications, pay him several hundred thousand dollars a year for his role on their boards of directors. Likewise, Juno Therapeutics and Paige.AI, both tapped Dr. Baselga to serve as a chief adviser after securing exclusive rights to data and technology developed by the hospital. Neither Juno nor Paige are required to disclose exactly what they’ve paid Dr. Baselga, because neither has brought a product to market yet. But if those payments are on par with what he’s receiving from other companies, it would come out to hundreds of thousands of dollars for each. And if his compensation from these companies includes stock, he stands to profit personally, and handsomely, from intellectual property that belongs to the hospital.
Sloan Kettering’s other leaders were well aware of these relationships. The hospital has said that it takes pains to wall off any employee involved with a given outside company from the hospital’s dealings with that company. But it’s difficult to believe that conflicts of this magnitude could have truly been worked around, given how many of them there were, and how high up on the organizational chart Dr. Baselga sat. It also strains credulity to suggest that he was the hospital’s only leader with such conflicts or with such apparent difficulty disclosing them. After the initial report, but before Dr. Baselga’s resignation, the hospital sent a letter to its entire 17,000-person staff acknowledging that the institution as a whole needed to do better. It remains to be seen what additional actions will be taken — and by whom — to repair the situation.