Drug Company Funding Taints Published Medical Research

Posted on November 26, 2012  Comments (3)

Science provide the opportunity for us to achieve great benefits for society. However, especially in medical research money can make what are already very difficult judgments even less reliable. Add that to a very poor understanding of science in those we elect and you have a dangerous combination. That combination is one of the largest risks we face and need to manage better. I wish we would elect people with a less pitiful appreciation for science but that doesn’t seem likely. That makes doing a better job of managing the conflicts of interest money puts into our current medical research a top priority.

How Drug Company Money Is Undermining Science by Charles Seife

In the past few years the pharmaceutical industry has come up with many ways to funnel large sums of money—enough sometimes to put a child through college—into the pockets of independent medical researchers who are doing work that bears, directly or indirectly, on the drugs these firms are making and marketing. The problem is not just with the drug companies and the researchers but with the whole system—the granting institutions, the research labs, the journals, the professional societies, and so forth. No one is providing the checks and balances necessary to avoid conflicts.

Peer-reviewed journals are littered with studies showing how drug industry money is subtly undermining scientific objectivity. A 2009 study in Cancer showed that participants somehow survived longer when a study’s authors had conflicts of interest than when the authors were clean. A 1998 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a “strong association” between researchers’ conclusions about the safety of calcium channel blockers, a class of drugs used to reduce blood pressure, and their financial relationships with the firms producing the drugs.

Most of those in the system have an interest in minimizing an effort to clean this up. It is just more work they don’t want to do. Or it goes directly against their interest (drug companies that want to achieve favorable opinions by buying influence). The main political message in the USA for a couple decades has been to reduce regulation. Allowing research that is tainted because you find regulation politically undesirable is a bad idea. People that understand science and how complex medical research is appreciate this.

Sadly when we elect people that by and large are scientifically illiterate they don’t understand the risks of the dangerous practices they allow. Even if they were scientifically illiterate but understood their ignorance they could do a decent job by getting scientific consultation from experts but they don’t (to an extent they listen to the scientists that those that give them lots of money tell them to which does help make sure those giving the politicians cash have their interests served but it is not a good way to create policy with the necessary scientific thinking needed today).

Related: Problems with the Existing Funding System for Medical ResearchMedical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof)Merck and Elsevier Publish Phony Peer-Review JournalAnti-Science PoliticsStand with Science, Late is Better than Never

3 Responses to “Drug Company Funding Taints Published Medical Research”

  1. Mentor Palokaj
    November 27th, 2012 @ 6:29 am

    The problem is that often researchers have trouble getting funding, and turn to the private sector for help.

    You mention the problem of people deciding about things they don;t understand. Very valid point as well, which is why politics kind of scares me right now. Most politicians (40+) have difficulty understanding every day life technology, yet they decide on ground breaking research legislation…

  2. Anonymous
    November 28th, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

    It seems to be common practice today to misappropriate everything beneficial to tax payers…I know to say misappropriate is harsh but I speak for a lot of people who just think we are being robbed…sorry for the rant but your post touched a nerve. It’s just ridiculous to have to go and settle for generic medicine and even having to go to another country to get it…this is really getting crazy!

  3. All Data is Wrong, Some is Useful » Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog
    September 22nd, 2015 @ 9:51 am

    […] is not that difficult to verify I think it would be wise to take this risk seriously elsewhere. Studies of medical studies are constantly finding misleading results being reported (this is even with many measures in place attempting to counter the dangerous of misleading results […]

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