NIH researchers are up-front about their support from drug companies, right? Wrong!

Thursday, April 01, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: medical research, corruption, health news

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(NaturalNews) Medical research that is sponsored by drug companies has long been a conundrum. After all, scientists often welcome the big bucks of the drug industry in order to finance their studies -- but can they be totally objective when they are supported by Big Pharma? NaturalNews has previously covered this problem and how mainstream medicine, including the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), has glossed over issues of researchers failing to disclose their association with drug companies (http://www.naturalnews.com/019914_JAMA_medic...).

But at least the U.S. government's own National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded scientists are open about their financial arrangements with drug companies, right? Wrong. And the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), an independent nonprofit group that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in the federal government, is calling the NIH out on this problem.

POGO has gone public to urge NIH Director Francis Collins to deal strongly and openly with financial conflicts of interest among researchers funded by the NIH in universities and medical schools. Currently, the financial arrangements are reported on a strictly confidential basis only to the researchers' institutions. This secrecy has obviously created opportunities for abuses and conflicts of interest involving scientists funded by Big Pharma.

In a letter sent to Dr. Collins on March 11, POGO demanded that NIH sponsored scientists' financial arrangements be made easily accessible to not only members of the U.S. Congress and journalists but to anyone in the public who wants this information. For example, POGO suggested that the information be made available in a public database posted on a website.

"This kind of public disclosure is one of the best ways to protect against financial conflicts of interest in medical research," POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said in a press statement.

In a published interview six months ago, Dr. Collins claimed he supported the public release of NIH researchers' financial backing. "I personally am in favor of the idea that sunshine is the best disinfectant. The idea of having a public database where all investigators disclose what kinds of financial arrangement they have with outside organization is a good thing," he stated. However, a move toward public access of this information remains, so far, all talk and no action.

Meanwhile, yet another worrisome all-too-cozy relationship between Big Pharma and scientists has just been revealed by Mayo Clinic research published by the British Medical Journal.

It turns out that virtually all researchers who came up with positive results for the anti-diabetic drug rosiglitazone had financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

In 2007, a large scale review of rosiglitazone concluded the drug wasn't the safe medication it was hyped to be. In fact, taking the drug caused a significant increase in heart attack risk. So Mayo researchers decided to assess over 200 articles on rosiglitazone to see if they spotted any possible links between authors' financial conflicts of interest and the scientists' contentions the drug was safe and effective.

The results showed about half of the study authors (45%) had financial conflicts of interest and almost a fourth did not disclose this information. The authors of three studies included in the latter group apparently downright lied -- they published a statement declaring they had no conflict of interest.

Most telling was the bottom line: almost all, 94% of researchers who reported glowing results on the safety of rosiglitazone were more likely to have a financial conflict of interest with a Big Pharma company than were researchers who reached negative views about the drug.

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