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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 27, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 5
Conflict of Interest in Medical Research to be Studied

Goal is to provide framework for establishing sound policy and practices

By David Marsh
Johns Hopkins Medicine

A new, government-funded study at Johns Hopkins will provide much-needed information about conflict of interest in medical research. The $3 million, four-year investigation will explore the difficult issue of how best to disclose such conflicts to potential participants in research.

The main goal of the study — called the Conflict of Interest Notification Study, or COINS — is to provide a framework for establishing sound policy and practices for disclosing conflict of interest in research. Funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, COINS is being led by Jeremy Sugarman, the newly endowed Harvey M. Meyerhoff Professor of Bioethics and Medicine at the School of Medicine.

While general awareness has increased about the growth of conflicts of interest in medical research, little is understood about the way patients learn about them and how — or if — they incorporate them into decisions regarding their participation in research activities.

"Conflicts of interest can be present in otherwise ethically acceptable research provided that these conflicts are managed. This often includes disclosing them to patients who are deciding whether or not to participate in research," Sugarman said. "Ultimately, we want to have guidelines for when, where and how researchers should disclose any conflicts of interest to patients. We also want to track these disclosures and learn how they influence patients' decisions about their care."

Prior to joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins, Sugarman was a professor of medicine and philosophy, and founding director of the Center for the Study of Medical Ethics and Humanities, at Duke University's School of Medicine. While there, he served as a senior policy and research analyst for the White House Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments and as a consultant to the National Bioethics Commission.

Sugarman has published extensively in leading peer-reviewed journals. He also has co-edited four books in the field and currently sits on the editorial boards of Accountability in Research, the American Journal of Bioethics and Theoretical Medicine in Bioethics.

Sugarman earned his medical degree from Duke University, then completed a fellowship in general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins. He later obtained a master's degree in philosophy from Georgetown University and a master's in public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

His new appointment will be honored at a dedication ceremony taking place at Evergreen House, today, Sept. 27.


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