Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Industry funding and research

... [T]he scientist needs the industry’s money to maintain her research and affiliation with a university and, thus, her credibility, at the same time that the industry needs that scientist’s research and that affiliation to protect its wealth against regulatory interventions and costs that might otherwise accrue. The mutual dependence all takes place under the cover of “scientific method” and “peer review,” and absent any evidence of “bad apple” scientists, as if the marketplace of ideas isn’t influenced by the very funds that the scientist craves and the industry provides.

That's from the good folks at the Situationist. Their post excerpts an LATimes story about a UCLA researcher who received funds from tobacco industry and whose research produced results that are, um, "industry-friendly".

While we are on this topic, I must recommend that you take a look at this NYTimes review of Ethics, the Medical Profession and the Pharmaceutical Industry by Howard Brody:

Many individual problematic drugs make an appearance here. Chloromycetin, a toxic antibiotic from the 1950s, was relentlessly promoted by its manufacturer for routine use until the day its patent expired. (Still available in generic form, it is now used only as a last resort.) Thalidomide never caused an epidemic of birth defects in this country, as it did in Germany, only because a single stubborn F.D.A. officer was dissatisfied with the drug’s safety profile, despite the manufacturer’s repeated assurances that everything was fine.

The epitaph of the recently withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, whose virtues were subtly spun to the medical community in prestigious research journals, is still being written in litigation around the country.

“Research that is driven by marketing rather than by scientific aims would seem, in the end, to be low-quality research,” Dr. Brody comments mildly about the Vioxx fiasco.

His overall conclusion is similarly low-key: “A profession is not just a way of making money; it’s a form of public trust. ...Medicine has for many decades now been betraying this public trust.”