Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers
 
 

 

 

Los Angeles Times
24 January 2003

Editorial: Funding Can Taint Findings

[This editorial draws attention to the impact of vested interests on medical research. It focuses on medical research, where most attention has been paid, but fails to note that the problem it describes is even more severe in research examining the health risks of chemical exposures.]

Last month, a study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute showed that diuretics were better at alleviating high blood pressure than newer, far more expensive drugs such as calcium channel blockers. It took a federally funded study, after years of studies lauding channel blockers, to uncover that. A New England Journal of Medicine review of those favorable studies found that 96% of the researchers received money from the drugs' makers. The folks footing the bill for scientific research too often get exactly what they want. With industry supplying nearly two-thirds of the medical research money in the United States, that means more studies that boost industry in ways both subtle and blatant.

A new Yale University study finds that when businesses, rather than other groups, sponsor medical research at hospitals and colleges, the outcomes are 3.6 times more likely to favor the company involved. The Yale study -- not funded by business -- puts together an unlovely picture of what happens when researchers have financial ties to the subject of their research.

The correlation between funding and findings makes it easy to understand why consumer groups greeted with skepticism a study this week from the American Assn. of Neurological Surgeons that found no link between roller coasters and brain injury. The study's sponsor was Six Flags, owner of the ever-more-turbulent rides at Magic Mountain and other parks.

This rush for business dollars -- once anathema to academic and medical researchers -- extends far beyond medicine.

ExxonMobil is putting $100 million into the new Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University. The project's agenda is developing ways to combat the atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels. But ExxonMobil and other sponsoring companies have the authority to approve the research topics, and the oil giant is no fan of renewable energy or limits on carbon dioxide emissions. A company official said Stanford was chosen in part because it is known for working with business and because the professors were open to changing their career directions to join the project.

Public spending on medical research has doubled in the last five years but cannot keep up with corporations intent on buying academic credibility. Researchers can raise the bar by setting standards and urging companies to fund studies through independent foundations.

Journals and the popular media should ask for, and prominently publish, funding sources and amounts whenever they report on new research. The forces shaping science also shape public policy and medical practice.

 
     
     

 

 

 

OSF Home
 About this website
Newest
Book Basics
  Synopsis & excerpts
  The bottom line
  Key points
  The big challenge
  Chemicals implicated
  The controversy
  Recommendations
New Science
  Broad trends
  Basic mechanisms
  Brain & behavior
  Disease resistance
  Human impacts
  Low dose effects
  Mixtures and synergy
  Ubiquity of exposure
  Natural vs. synthetic
  New exposures
  Reproduction
  Wildlife impacts
Recent Important    Results
Consensus
News/Opinion
Myths vs. Reality
Useful Links
Important Events
Important Books
Other Sources
Other Languages
About the Authors
 
Talk to us: email