When Yale School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern submitted a 2017 study for publication — based on research examining the effectiveness of a new treatment by the pharmaceutical company Tricida, Inc. — he failed to reveal a crucial fact: He served on the company’s board of directors and owned shares of its stock, according to a Saturday New York Times and ProPublica joint report.
The study, which examined a chronic kidney disease therapy, was also funded by Tricida. Alpern was the senior author of the research article.
But his ties to the biomedical industry are not limited to Tricida. Alpern has served on the board of directors for the pharmaceutical companies AbbVie and Abbott Laboratories since 2013 and 2008, respectively. And these companies made a combined total payment of over $500,000 to Alpern during the 2017 fiscal year. The payments included $194,164 for consulting, $185,630 for travel and lodging as well as $25,291 for food and beverages, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which logs industry payments to physicians.
“The university encourages its faculty to seek and participate in sponsored research, to consult widely, and to engage in other activities that may benefit not only the participants but also the university itself, and the larger public,” Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart wrote in an email to the News. “All faculty members are required to follow stringent policies governing the relationships of faculty with outside entities, including the pharmaceutical industry.”
Peart noted that the University institutes these policies to preserve the independence of faculty and mitigate bias in research activities, clinical decision-making and educational programs. She added that he would recuse himself from making decisions that affect AbbVie.
In an email to the News, Alpern said that his board positions at biomedical companies are annually reported to the University.
He also underscored the importance of top physicians and scientists advising biomedical companies.
“We provide a perspective from the viewpoint of physicians, scientists, medical schools, hospitals, and most importantly patients,” Alpern wrote in the email. “I would also add that my experiences on the boards have allowed me to gain knowledge that is helpful in my role as dean.”
Alpern noted that many medical school deans –– often from top schools –– also serve on the corporate boards of biomedical companies.
For example, University of Michigan Medical School Dean Marschall S. Runge serves as a director for the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Runge received nearly $300,000 from the company in 2017.
But not all industry payments amount to large sums. In 2017, Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Dean Lee Goldman ’69 MED ’73 SPH ’73 received $24 from the pharmaceutical company Allergan, Inc. And in 2016, Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley received $77 from the biotechnology company Celgene Corporation. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services did not report any industry payments to Daley during 2017.
Alpern was appointed as dean of the medical school in 2004.
Marisa Peryer | firstname.lastname@example.org .