Kassirer, Jerome P. 1932-

views updated

Kassirer, Jerome P. 1932-


Born 1932, in Buffalo, NY. Education: University of Buffalo, M.D. (magna cum laude), 1957.


Office—Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02110. E-mail—[email protected].


Physician, nephrologist, educator, writer, and editor. Buffalo General Hospital, Buffalo, NY, intern and assistant resident in medicine, 1957-59; Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, instructor, 1961-65, assistant professor, 1965-69, associate professor, 1969-1974, professor of medicine, 1974—, acting chairman of the department of medicine, 1974-75, vice chairman of department of medicine, 1979-1991, Sara Murray Jordan Professor of Medicine, 1987-1991; New England Medical Center, Boston, fellow in nephrology, senior resident in medicine, 1961-62, assistant physician 1961-65, physician in renal services, 1969-1974, associate physician-in-chief, 1971-1991, acting physician-in-chief, 1976-77. Lecturer in medicine, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1991—; Yale University, New Haven, CT, adjunct professor of medicine, 2000-04; Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH, adjunct professor of medicine, 2005-06; Stanford University, Stanford, CA, visiting professor, 2007—.


Master of the American College of Physicians (chairman, 1985-88, governor of Massachusetts chapter, 1985-89; member of executive committee of board of governors, 1988-89; member of health and public policy committee, 1989-1991; board of regents 1990-91), American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow), Institute of Medicine NAS, Association of American Physicians, National Library of Medicine (chairman of the board of scientific counselors, 1989-1990; member of biomedical journalism award committee, 1992—), Massachusetts Medical Society, Buffalo Academy of Medicine (honorary life member), Society of Clinical Decision Making (charter member), American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Recipient of Educational Research Foundation award, American Medical Association, 1993. Honorary degrees include D.S., University of Massachusetts, 1992; Doctor honoris causa, L'Universite Rene Descartes, Paris, 1992; D.S., Thomas Jefferson University, 1994; D.S., State University of New York, 1995; and D.S., Tufts University, 1998.


(With Jordan J. Cohen) Acid-Base, with the collaboration of F. John Gennari, John T. Harrington, and Nicolaos E. Madias, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1982.

(Editor, with Jordan J. Cohen and John T. Harrington) Nephrology Forum, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1983.

(With Donald E. Hricik and Jordan J. Cohen) Repairing Body Fluids: Principles & Practice, Saunders (Philadelphia, PA), 1989.

(With Richard I. Kopelman) Learning Clinical Reasoning, Williams & Wilkins (Baltimore, MD), 1991.

(With Harry L. Greene II) Current Therapy in Adult Medicine, Mosby (St. Louis, MO), 1997.

(With Richard I. Kopelman) Learning Clinical Reasoning, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1999.

On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to numerous professional journals. Also editorial advisor, "Outline of Knowledge, Part 4: Human Life," The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1989; member of editorial board of New England Journal of Medicine, 1972-75; consulting editor for American Journal of Medicine, 1976-86; coeditor of Clinical Problem Solving, Hospital Practice, 1985-91; editor-in-chief of Current Therapy in Internal Medicine, 1990; editor of New England Journal of Medicine, 1991-99.


Jerome P. Kassirer is a nephrologist and physician who has been a faculty member at the Tufts University Medical School since the early 1960s. He is known for his promotion of professionalism, ethical scientific conduct, patient involvement in decision making, appropriate use of firearms, and reliable approaches to the assessment of the quality of health care. He was been highly critical of for-profit medicine, the abuses of managed care, financial conflicts of interest, and political intrusions into medical decisions. He addresses these issues in his book On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health.

Specifically, On the Take focuses on the relationship between physicians and the drug companies, medical suppliers, and health insurers who try to influence their decisions in such areas as what drugs and medical technologies to prescribe and use. "Adopting the style of an investigative reporter, this highly respected former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine relates, within 213 highly readable pages, a litany of well-referenced examples demonstrating that pernicious financial conflicts of interest are rife in medicine today and threaten to undermine the integrity of the profession," noted Thomas J. Ryan and Roman W. De-Sanctis in a review of the book in the medical journal Circulation.

Although many of these abuses of influence peddling have been previously chronicled, Kassirer presents a comprehensive overview of the abuses, beginning with gifts such as free pens and coffee mugs, as well as free vacations to luxurious resorts. However, as the author reveals, these gifts are only minor compared to some of the gifts and monies physicians receive. For example, for physicians influential in their fields and specialties, it is not that uncommon for them to receive appointments for ongoing consultations with companies and membership on drug company advisory boards, positions which can earn physicians an extra six-figure income. As a result, writes Kassirer, physicians' integrity and better judgments are compromised, often to the detriment of their patients' health. The author writes in detail about the extent of financial enticements and explains how they encourage bias, promote dangerously misleading medical information, raise the cost of medical care, and breed distrust among physicians and their patients. In their review in Circulation, Ryan and DeSanctis, both physicians, noted: "Under dramatic headings such as ‘Money-Warped Behavior,’ … ‘Can You Trust Your Doctor,’ and ‘Can We Trust Our Researchers,’ the reader is shown how pervasive conflicts of interest have spread up the professional food chain and have tainted multitudes of physicians and scientists along the way."

In his book, Kassirer details his view of how the American health-care system evolved into a commercial undertaking that now encompasses a range of conflicts of interest that constantly battle between profits and doing what is best for patients. He noted that drug companies spend billions not just on research but also on courting physicians' favor in terms of using products and popularizing their drugs. In addition, Kassirer writes about other faults within the healthcare system, such as abuses of fee-for-service medical care that leads some physicians to call for medical procedures that are not necessary. He also derides the HMO system that rewards doctors for keeping medical care costs down, often to the detriment of their patients. The author closes his book with a call for the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences to study the issues, and urges the medical profession to reform itself.

"On the Take further confirms my belief that the lofty and largely humanistic ideals for medical care that were shaped by Greek, Jewish and Christian histories are necessary for putting the patient first," wrote Justin List in the Christian Century. "This requires that the profession distance itself from the type of free-market capitalism that drives other sectors," Edward E. St. Godard, writing in CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, noted: "It is obvious … that the complexities and nuances of the relationship between big business and medicine have not escaped Kassirer. A confession of sorts provides him with both a soapbox and the moral authority to use it."



AIDS Weekly, February 4, 1991, "Kassirer Named Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine," p. 9.

American Medical News, March 11, 1991, Beverly Merz, "Turning a New Page at NEJM," p. 7; August 9, 1999, "Editor Fired in Dispute over Journal Direction," p. 4.

Archives of Family Medicine, March, 1994, James F. Peggs, review of Current Therapy in Adult Medicine, p. 287.

British Medical Journal, July 31, 1999, Scott Gottlieb, "Editor of New England Journal of Medicine Departs," p. 273.

Cancer Weekly, February 18, 1991, "Kassirer Named Editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine," p. 15.

Christian Century, April 19, 2005, Justin List, review of On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health, p. 40.

Circulation, May 24, 2005, Thomas J. Ryan and Roman W. DeSanctis, "Dr. Jerome Kassirer's Book On The Take Worthy of Comment," pp. 2552-2554.

CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, September 7, 1999, John Hoey, "When Journals Are Branded, Editors Get Burnt; the Ousting of Jerome Kassirer from the New England Journal of Medicine"; May 24, 2005, Edward E. St. Godard, "Covenants and Compromises," p. 1473.

Drug Topics, October 5, 1998, Sandra Levy, "M.D.s Issue Call for Testing Alternative Medications," p. 21.

Harvard Business Review, December, 2004, John T. Landry, review of On the Take, p. 28.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, May 5, 1989, Nadine Bazilinski, review of Repairing Body Fluids: Principles & Practice, p. 2559; February 20, 1991, Marsha F. Goldsmith, "New Editor Named at New England Journal," p. 841; September 11, 1991, Larry R. Kirkland, review of Current Therapy in Adult Medicine, p. 1422; August 25, 1999, Drummond Rennie, "Editors and Owners—Stretching Reputation Too Far," p. 783.

Lancet, July 31, 1999, Richard Horton, "Confusion as New England Journal Editor Is Forced Out," p. 399; September 4, 1999, "NEJM's Editor," p. 869; January 15, 2005, D.J. Weatherall, "The Doctor's Dilemma," p. 207.

Los Angeles Times, January 30, 1991, "New England Medical Journal Names New Editor in Chief," p. 19; July 27, 1999, Terrence Monmaney, "Editor of Key Medical Journal Is Ousted," p. 16.

Modern Healthcare, August 2, 1999, "Firing of Another Medical Editor Raises Issue of Independence," p. 54.

New England Journal of Medicine, December 2, 2004, Catherine D. DeAngelis, review of On the Take, p. 2459.

New York Times, January 30, 1991, "Medical Journal Picks a New Editor in Chief," p. 20; February 5, 1991, Lawrence K. Altman, "Editor of Journal Envisions New Directions and Lighter Tone," p. 3.

PR Newswire, January 29, 1991, "Jerome P. Kassirer M.D. Named as Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine," p. 0129.

Publishers Weekly, September 27, 2004, review of On the Take, p. 54.

Science, August 20, 1999, Floyd E. Bloom, "Scruples or Squabbles?," p. 1207; May 19, 2000, Constance Holden, "Harvard Researcher Named NEJM Editor," p. 1153; February 18, 2005, Eric G. Campbell, "Sharp Critique of Industry's Influence," p. 1049.

Time, November 8, 2004, "Beware of Dr," p. 12.

Wall Street Journal, January 30, 1991, "Kassirer Appointed Editor at New England Journal of Medicine," p. 2; February 11, 1999, "NEJM Editor Decries Firing of Lundberg by AMA in Editorial," p. 14; July 26, 1999, Gabriella Stern, "Editor at New England Medical Journal to Quit, Citing ‘Differences of Opinion,’" p. 5; July 27, 1999, Laura Johannes and Carol Gentry, "Medical Journal Ousts Editor, Ending Battle"; November 8, 1999, Laura Johannes, "Medical Journal Official Steps Down from Committee Searching for Editor," p. 2.

Washington Post, July 27, 1999, Rick Weiss "Medical Journal Editor to Leave; Publisher's Product Endorsements Prompt Controversy," p. 02.


Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law,http://www6.miami.edu/ethics/jpsl/ (February 22, 2008), brief profile of author.

Oxford University Press Web site,http://www.oup.com/ (February 22, 2008), overview of On the Take.

Tufts University Web site,http://whitepages.tufts.edu/ (February 22, 2008), faculty listing for author.

UTMB: The University of Texas Medical Branch Web site,http://www.utmb.edu/ (February 22, 2008), brief profile of author.