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On a recent Sunday morning, members of the New York City Council listened to testimony of the president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Andrew Freedman. As a retired professor of medicine and an adviser to the American Heart Association who was the subject of a 2014 investigation into whether he had improperly edited peer-reviewed articles, doctors felt it necessary to remind Freedman that there are people who understand the meaning of the words they read.
“I think you know who you are. You’re pretty clear about where you stand — and for good reason,” Freedman said, after the meeting. He was referring to that last part of the testimony and the fact that his testimony about Heart to Heart’s financial practices was a little more nuanced.
But while Freedman was making his point to the council, a representative of the group representing public hospitals and physicians was making his own point.
“Is Dr. Freedman a hero, or is he a fraud?” Councilmember Vanessa Gibson asked her. “I think he is a fraud and he is a villain.”
The council members went on to express outrage at Freedman’s alleged failure to disclose payments from Heart to Heart, even though Heart to Heart’s parent organization, the American Heart Association (AHA), had paid him in 2005, shortly after its merger into the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
That is true. It’s worth repeating at this point that Dr. Freedman had agreed to a $17,000 honorarium from the AHA in 2005, before Heart to Heart joined the AHA.
The full scope of Heart to Heart’s relationship with AHA did not become public until this month, when I reached Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about the issue.
He confirmed that he had spoken to the AHA and asked that its donation policies be reviewed.
When asked whether he would recommend a change in Heart to Heart’s policies about disclosing gifts, Frieden said that “that’s something I would have to look at.” He confirmed that the AHA did not pay for a single clinical trial study with Dr. Freedman, although the AHA would continue to provide medical assistance to the study. He would not, however, say whether the AHA had received money for its direct or indirect role in developing the research results being cited in journal publications.
On its own, however, the AHA had a financial stake in the research findings