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Commentary

What's Wrong with Money In Science?
Thomas P. Stossel, M.D., David Shaywitz, Washington Post, 7-2-06

After this week's controversy surrounding the alleged failure of several authors of a JAMA article to disclose pharmaceutical industry ties, Stossel and Shaywitz provide a counter–argument that private money in medicine doesn't weaken medical research—it strengthens it.

Like other prestigious medical journals, JAMA has become fixated in recent years on commercial conflicts of interest. In the end, however, JAMA seemed willing to apply a looser standard for a consumer activist group that reflects its ideological viewpoint—corporate sponsorship corrupts research—than it does for top scientists and doctors who receive industry funding.

In fact, the spin was so successful that few newspaper stories about the study emphasized the key finding: An FDA adviser's financial connections to the drug companies had no statistically significant effect on the approval of new drugs.

Medical care available to Americans is immensely better today than when we began our careers in medicine, in large measure because physicians have far superior technology at their disposal. And while much of the knowledge underlying these developments originated in universities, it was biotechnology firms and other companies that transformed this knowledge into the new drugs and devices that have proved so useful to the public. Little of this technology—be it vaccines for hepatitis, heart valves, or new anti–inflammatory drugs for rheumatoid arthritis—was developed by scholars and researchers without supposed conflicts of interest. And none of it came from advocacy organizations such as Public Citizen or their boosters at JAMA.



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