In November we shared with you that Dr. José Baselga, a top cancer doctor and researcher, had gotten himself into hot water for failing to disclose millions of dollars in payments from drug and health care companies (something we suspect was done on purpose). And less than a month later, he resigned. (He did technically resign but only because he was forced out.)
However, he’s now gone one step further and joined their ranks; on Monday, AstraZeneca announced that they had hired Dr. Baselga as head of research and development in oncology (“a newly created unit that reflects the company’s shift toward cancer treatments, one of the hottest areas in the drug industry”1).
Chief executive, Pascal Soriot, described Baselga as “an outstanding scientific leader”2 whose “research and clinical achievements have led to the development of several innovative medicines.”3 They also called him “an international thought leader in cancer care and clinical research,”4 something we would dispute.
And let’s be clear, we dispute this not because we have it out for him and not because we just don’t like cancer drugs, but because some of his omissions involved articles that were published in Cancer Discovery while he was an editor in chief. A clear conflict of interest and echoed by the American Association for Cancer Research.
This isn’t Baselga’s first time working with AstraZeneca, however. Back in 2013 and 2014, the Big Pharma company paid him $28,750 for consulting work related to unspecified drugs. Something he failed to disclose in dozens of articles.
“AstraZeneca’s decision to hire Dr. Baselga is part of an effort by the drug maker to focus more directly on cancer research, which has generated extensive interest from investors and companies in recent years amid a series of breakthroughs. The company sells several cancer drugs, including the lung cancer drug Tagrisso and Lynparza, which treats a number of cancers. It has suffered some recent setbacks, such as a failed trial of its lung cancer drug Imfinzi.
Under the company’s new structure, Dr. Baselga will oversee the development of cancer drugs from early research to late-stage clinical trials, and a separate research unit will focus on other disease areas. Each unit will have its own commercial team to promote the products.”5
Baselga played a key role in the development of the drug Herceptin and previously served at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain, later as chief of hematology and oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and in 2013 at Memorial Sloan Kettering.