(NaturalNews) Accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies creates a subtle but potent pressure upon doctors to serve that company's interests, according a commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Blood pressure researcher Bruce Psaty of the University of Washington writes that while he used to take gifts from pharmaceutical companies, he soon learned that he found himself invariably disposed to subtly promote those companies' products.
"It's human instinct," he said. "If someone does something nice -- gives you $5 million in a research grant -- don't you want to do something nice back to them?"
In his commentary, Psaty writes of how a pharmaceutical company contacted him after he published an article about the effectiveness of beta-blockers in treating high blood pressure.
"My family and I were invited to a first-class resort, where I presented the results at a sponsored conference," he wrote.
While working with the company to develop a presentation on beta blockers for the conference, it was Psaty who suggested including information from several of the company's studies own on its products. He writes that he felt "a kind of social duty to reciprocate both the kindness and the investment made by the sponsor in the slide set."
Psaty criticizes much of the current discourse over conflicts of interest for failing to recognize the psychological effect of accepting a gift from a company. Feeling beholden to a company might induce doctors to skew research in those companies favor, such as by excluding sicker patients from the participant pool in order to show better results.
"Not on purpose, but I'm trying to help my friends, just a little bit," he said.
In his commentary, Psaty cites research by behavioral economist Dan Ariely of Duke University, who has found that most people are still able to consider themsevles honest if they engage in only a little bit of cheating.
Psaty no longer accepts industry funding for any of his research.