In 1980, roughly one-third of all biomedical research was funded by the pharmaceutical industry. As government support declined, the industry stepped in, and by 2000 it funded nearly two-thirds of such work. The industry also provides much of the advertising that supports the publication of professional medical journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine. A 1998 study of medical journal editorials about a controversial group of blood pressure medications found that those who favored the drugs were much more likely to have (undisclosed) financial ties to the drug manufacturers than those who were critical. The industry is also entwined in the regulatory apparatus: In the summer of 2004 a federal panel recommended that Americans at risk of heart disease should radically reduce their cholesterol levels from previous estimates. Most of the members of the panel had financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies that make “statins,” new drugs that lower cholesterol.
a. What ethical concerns do these links between industry, the medical profession, and government raise? Can you think of any ways to protect consumers from any harms that might result?
b. Internet Assignment Find out what reforms have been proposed by Public Citizen. Find out what you can about Public Citizen (who supports it, its record, etc.).
c. Find out who opposes the efforts of Public Citizen and why.