Physicians are Evil Venture-Fund-Loving Money-Grubbers

According to a new study out in the Journal of the American Medical Association, U.S. physicians are evil venture-fund-loving money-grubbers. Okay, the study doesn’t say precisely that, but it implies it strongly, mischievously pointing out that remarkably high numbers of U.S. physicians are tied to U.S. hedge funds and venture funds:

…the authors found about 75,000 expert clinicians and researchers now consult for hedge funds, stock analysts, venture capitalists or other sophisticated investors.
That’s up from 15,000 doctors who consulted in 2002, and fewer than 1,000 in 1996.

That is approximately one in ten U.S. physicians, and an even higher percentage, the paper argues, of academics who are closer to recent research and even more in demand by investment sorts.
Scary stuff, right? I’m not so sure.
Leaving aside whether this is a good thing or a bad thing (and I think there is a lot to be said for having investors better understand medical research, and for having medical researchers understand where investment is going), I’m skeptical of the numbers. While I grant that Gerson Lehrman and others are recruiting large numbers of experts to be on their advisor list, how many are actually doing anything? In other words, how much of this five-fold growth in investment-industry-linked experts touted by the JAMA paper is just puffer-fish posturing by emerging firms in this area? A lot, is my guess.


  1. Even if they’re not *doing* anything, if they’re getting paid, it may be affecting their objectivity in terms of identifying problems with drugs made by companies the funds are invested in, etc.

  2. Nigel deGruyther says:

    First, the article was labelled commentary. To call it a study would be a misrepresentation. I’m sure you understand the difference between the two in an academic publication.
    Second, I agree that we should be skeptical of the one in ten number. Just because a doctor has been signed up as a potential “expert” does not mean that they have been or might ever be called upon for an opinion.
    Topol and Blumenthal (who, to my knowledge, are both active in consulting to the finance industry) do make some good (albeit common sense) recommendations at the end. Specifically that all relationships be disclosed when commenting or publishing, that institutions review all relationships for potential conflicts of interest, and that they be educated about relavant law including securities law.