Corporate influences on epidemiology
Centre for Public Health Research,
International Journal of Epidemiology - Volume 37, Number 1, February 2, 2008
“…Corporate influences on epidemiology have become stronger and more pervasive in the last few decades, particularly in the contentious fields of pharmacoepidemiology and occupational epidemiology. For every independent epidemiologist studying the side effects of medicines and the hazardous effects of industrial chemicals, there are several other epidemiologists hired by industry to attack the research and to debunk it as ‘junk science’. In some instances these activities have gone as far as efforts to block publication. In many instances, academics have accepted industry funding which has not been acknowledged, and only the academic affiliations of the company-funded consultants have been listed.
These activities are major threats to the integrity of the field, and its survival as a scientific discipline. There is no simple solution to these problems. However, for the last two decades there has been substantial discussion on ethics in epidemiology, partly in response to the unethical conduct of many industry-funded consultants. Professional organizations, such as the International Epidemiological Association, can play a major role in encouraging and supporting epidemiologists to assert positive principles of how science should work, and how it should be applied to public policy decisions, rather than simply having a list of what not to do….”
Commentary: Epidemiology and the pharmaceutical industry: an inside perspective
IJE Advance Access published on January 9, 2008
Int. J. Epidemiol. 2008 37: 53-55; doi:10.1093/ije/dym264
‘…..Neil Pearce's impassioned comments on ‘Corporate Influences on Epidemiology’1 are designed to raise awareness of industry activities that he believes ‘are major threats to the integrity of the field, and its survival as a scientific discipline’. He argues that ‘for every independent epidemiologist studying the side effects of medicines there are several other epidemiologists hired by industry to attack the research and debunk it as "junk science"’. While we recognize his depth of feeling, passion may nurture bias of its own. The relationship between science and industry is complex, and the role of epidemiologists in the pharmaceutical industry is not limited to debunking ‘junk science’. Balanced evaluation and discussion are necessary to provide accurate safety information to physicians and patients. Unfortunately, such temperate interchanges rarely make headlines and seldom sell books…”
A White, N Robinson, P Egger, M Stender, K
‘…..In many instances, academics have accepted industry funding which has not been acknowledged, and only the academic affiliations of the company-funded consultants have been listed’. He believes that this and other unethical practises are major threats to the integrity of epidemiological research. Although the article is addressed primarily to academic epidemiologists who consult with industry, there are a number of issues raised in the article that merit comment from those of us who practice epidemiology within a large, research-based pharmaceutical company….’
‘…..I support declarations of conflict of interest and mandatory disclosure of funding sources. I think corporate influence by and large seeks to benefit only one entity: The corporation. That condition is an inevitable by-product of the competitive environment in which corporations are naturally selected: A corporation that prospers does so largely because of its self-aggrandizing traits. Admitting this fact is an essential step toward addressing the problems to society and individuals that result. But also needed is an appreciation of the complex interplay of individuals and units within and among corporate entities, and a realistic appraisal of conditions within and among corporations….”
Carl V Phillips
“…..since I have done a few critical scientific analyses of epidemiological claims as part of industry consultancies. More significantly, the anti-scientific attacks on epidemiology that I have been a victim of have come not from corporations, or even government, but from those who are thought by most people to be public health advocates. The players and specific areas of research are different, but as with corporate influence, influential organized interests are willing to damage science and even sacrifice people's health to further their goals….”
“…..Epidemiology is commonly defined as the study of ‘the distribution and determinants of disease in human populations’. Thus, epidemiology is inherently focused on populations, and epidemiologists recognize that anecdotes about individuals cannot be used to refute evidence about populations. For example, an anecdote about someone who smoked one pack a day and lived to be 100, or someone who never smoked and developed lung cancer anyway, does not refute the evidence that people who smoke a pack a day get lung cancer at 10 times the rate of non-smokers. Similarly, anecdotes about individual epidemiologists acting ethically or unethically do not confirm or refute evidence about general tendencies.
In my commentary about corporate influences on epidemiology,1 I was not intending to comment on specific individuals (with the occasional exception of extreme cases which are too blatant to ignore), but rather to comment on the distribution and determinants of epidemiologic research, particularly current corporate influences on what research gets done and how the findings are received…”
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