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Kathryn Moseley served as one of the judges at "The Big Ethical Question Slam 5" hosted by a2ethics.org. In addition, Naomi Laventhal, Michele Gornick, Christian Vercler, Lauren Smith, and Lauren Wancata served as judges at the "Michigan Highschool Ethics Bowl 2."

Thanks to all the CBSSM folks who contributed their time!

For more information about these events and other great ethics-related activites, go to a2ethics.org.

A short video about the Highschool Ethics Bowl can be found here.

Would you participate if you knew this? (Mar-04)

When you decide to participate in a research study, what do you think the reserachers should inform you about?

Imagine that you have been diagnosed with depression. You see an ad in the local newspaper that a research group is studying a new drug for the treatment of depression and is recruiting people like yourself to participate. The study will investigate how effective the drug is at treating depression and will also look at whether the drug has any negative side effects.

Suppose the new drug is made by a small biotechnology company. The researcher owns a substantial portion of the stocks of the company. The value of the company's stocks can rapidly go up or down by large amounts depending on whether the drug is seen to be safe and effective for treating depression.

How important is it for you to know about the researcher's stock investment in the company before you consent to be in this study?

Do you think that the researcher should be required to tell you about his stock investment in the company before you are asked to participate?

Which option best reflects what you would do, given the researcher's stock investment in the drug company?How important is it for you to know about the researcher's stock investment in the company before you consent to be in this study?

  • Extremely important.
  • Very important
  • Somewhat important
  • Not very important
  • Not at all important

Do you think that the researcher should be required to tell you about his stock investment in the company before you are asked to participate?

  • Yes
  • No

Which option best reflects what you would do, given the researcher's stock investment in the drug company?

  • I would not participate in this study.
  • I'm not sure
  • I would still consider participating in this study

First, a little background:

The scenario you read and the questions you just answered were similar to ones that were asked to participants who have actually been diagnosed with depression. Also, individuals with coronary heart disease and breast cancer were given scenarios in which the researcher was said to be studying drugs that treated these health conditions. In the actual study, participants read seven scenarios, each having to do with a researcher's or university's personal financial investment in the drug being investigated. For instance, other scenarios included the university medical centre owning stocks of the drug company, the researcher receiving a lump sum of money per person enrolled in the study, and the drug company paying for the study.

Why were those questions important to ask?

Much of clinical research depends on patient volunteers to serve as research subjects. Patients must rely on the trustworthiness of the researchers who recruit them to help them decide whether to enroll in the study. This is especially true since benefit from participation can be uncertain. If an investigator or institution does not disclose that they have personal financial connections to the drug being studied, this could potentially undermine the trust of the participants. At the time that this study was submitted, there were no federal requirements on investigators or their institutions to disclose such financial conflicts of interest to potential research participants. This may continue to be the case in the future.

What can we say based on this study?

This study found two important trends: (1) Most potential research participants desired to be informed (and believed this should be required) regarding financial conflicts of interest in research, and yet (2) most still wanted to participate in such research. A clear majority still wanted to participate even in the most controversial scenario, which was the one you read on the previous screen. From these findings, then, it seems that the current practice of non-disclosure of financial conflicts of interest do not conform to the values and wishes of potential patient volunteers. It is not clear, however, whether disclosure, management, or elimination of financial conflicts of interest is the best solution. This study should not be taken to mean that only disclosure is required.

For more information see:

SYH Kim, RW Millard, P Nisbet, C Cox, ED Caine. Potential Research Participant's Views Regarding Researcher and Institutional Financial Conflicts of Interest. Journal of Medical Ethics, 30. 73-79. 2004.

A New Drug for the New Year (Jan-04)

Out with the old drugs and in with the new! How is your doctor prescribing for you?

Imagine that you are a physician and your patient is a 55-year-old white male with high blood pressure. He has no other medical problems, is on no medications, and has completed a 1-year program of diet and exercise to control his condition, but his blood pressure remains elevated at 170/105 (140/90 is the definition of high blood pressure).

As his physician, you have to decide on a medication to prescribe him in order to lower his blood pressure. You have the following options to choose from:

Diuretics: Diuretics are medications that lower blood pressure by getting rid of excess fluid in your body, making it easier for your heart to pump. They were first introduced in the 1950s.

Beta-blockers: Beta-blockers are medications that lower blood pressure by helping the heart to relax and pump more effectively, and by also reducing heart rate. They were first introduced in the 1960s.

ACE inhibitors: Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are medications that lower blood pressure by widening blood vessels and increasing blood flow. They were first introduced in 1981.

Calcium channel blockers: Calcium channel blockers are medications that lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels, reducing the heart's workload, and increasing the amount of blood and oxygen that reach the heart. They were also first introduced in 1981.
 
What type of medication would you prescribe this patient?
 
  • A diuretic
  • A beta-blocker
  • An ACE inhibitor
  • A calcium channel blocker

How do you compare to the physicians surveyed?

Of the physicians surveyed, 18% chose the same medication as you did. 38% chose an ACE inhibitor, 29% chose a beta-blocker, and 11% chose a calcium channel blocker. Most physicians chose an ACE inhibitor, a newer type of medication, rather than beta-blockers or diuretics, which are older types of medication.

Why is this important? When asked how they made their decision, the majority of physicians believed that diuretics were less effective and that beta-blockers were less likely to be tolerated by a patient's body than the other medications. However, a number of important studies have shown that beta-blockers and diuretics are as effective at lowering blood pressure as newer medications like ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers. Studies have also shown that beta-blockers and diuretics are equally or even better tolerated than the newer types of medications. Yet, the use of beta-blockers and diuretics has declined steadily in the past 15 years in favor of the newer and more expensive types of medications.

Why do physicians believe these things when the studies say otherwise?

The answer to this question is not fully known. One possibility is that physicians may be prescribing newer medications because these are the medications actively promoted by pharmaceutical companies. By providing free samples of the newer medications for physicians to give to patients, these companies may be influencing which medications physicians actually decide to prescribe. To test this possibility, after physicians had decided between diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers, they were asked if they ever provide their patients with free medication samples from these companies to treat their high blood pressure. It was found that physicians who used free samples were more likely to believe that ACE inhibitors are more effective. This isn't proof that physicians are influenced by pharmaceutical companies when prescribing medication for high blood pressure, but it does urge us to seriously consider if physicians may need to be re-educated about the effectiveness and tolerability of beta-blockers and diuretics.

For more information see:

Ubel, PA, Jepson, C, Asch, DA. Misperceptions about beta-blockers and diuretics. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 18, 977-983. 2003.

 

Bioethics Grand Rounds: Musical Event "When Death Comes Callin"

Wed, October 26, 2016, 12:00pm
Location: 
UH Ford Amphitheater & Lobby

When Death Comes Callin': Songs and Reflections About Death

Charlotte DeVries, Jeanne Mackey, Merilynne Rush, and friends offer a program of songs and brief readings reflecting various perspectives on death - humorous, sad, thoughtful, and quirky.

Lunch is provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tue, April 08, 2014

Reshma Jagsi’s study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology about financial decline in breast cancer survivors has been cited by various health media outlets, including Bio-Medicine, Health News Digest, and various other outlets. The study found that after receiving treatment, a quarter of breast cancer survivors were found to be worse off financially. 

Mon, June 06, 2016

A recent internet study on the effect of the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) on vaccine acceptance and trust was featured in "The Conversation." This study found telling participants about VAERS, without having them read the actual reports, improved vaccine acceptance only very slightly. However, when participants read the detailed reports, both vaccine acceptance and trust in the CDC’s conclusion that vaccines are safe declined significantly. This was true, even though the vast majority of respondents believed that the vaccine caused few or none of the reported deaths and disabilities.

For the original study:

Scherer LD, Shaffer VA, Patel N, Zikmund-Fisher BJ. Can the vaccine adverse event reporting system be used to increase vaccine acceptance and trust?. Vaccine. 2016 May 5;34(21):2424-9.

Research Topics: 

Dr. Andrew Barnosky stepped down from his role as Adult Ethics Committee chair, which is a position he has served for the last 16 years. CBSSM Faculty member Dr. Andrew G. Shuman will be the new committee chair. Dr. Barnosky will continue as a member of the faculty and a member of the Committee. The UMHS press release can be found here.

The 2012 CBSSM Research Colloquium took place on Thursday, May 10, and was attended by over 130 people.  This year's colloquium focused on research around medical decision making, and featured presentations by numerous faculty, fellows, and students.  In addition, the CBSSM Research Colloquium featured the annual Bishop Lecture in Bioethics as its keynote address.  Drs. Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband of Harvard Medical School jointly presented the Bishop Lecture with a talk entitled, "When Experts Disagree: The Art of Medical Decision Making."  For more information about the event and to view photos and a video of the Bishop Lecture, click here.

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