Bioethics Blogs

Interview with Dr. Marcia Angell, former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine

by Mike Reaves

Dr. Marcia Angell is an American physician, author, and the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Angell joined the Journal’s staff in 1979, became executive Editor in 1988, and served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal until June of 2000. She is currently on the faculty of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Her most popular work, The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It (2004), is critical of big industry in healthcare and its role in research and medicine. In April of 2016, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Angell for a discussion about some of the most controversial topics in healthcare economics, regulation, journalism, and politics.

I solicited Dr. Angell’s opinion on a recent decision regarding pharmaceutical companies, Amarin Pharma, Inc. v. United States. This decision holds that the First-Amendment protects off-label drug promotion by pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Angell indicated that it is difficult to prove that unethical behavior occurs in the promotion of off-label drugs because it is hard to monitor the behavior. She believes there will not be much success in the prosecution of individuals responsible for pushing these marketing strategies, and that jail time will likely be the only deterrent in an industry that incurs fines as a cost of doing business. 

I asked Dr. Angell about the Journal’s recent policy changes regarding conflict of interest. The current Editor of the Journal, Jeffery Drazen, has loosened the conflict of interest policy, which now allows authors of editorials and review articles to receive up to $10,000 from each drug company.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.