It’s 2003. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry accepts a $1 million donation from Coca-Cola. That same year, the group announces that “scientific evidence is certainly not clear on the exact role that soft drinks play in terms of children’s oral disease.” This statement, according to a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, directly contradicts the AAPD’s previous stance: “Consumption of sugars in any beverage can be a significant factor that contributes to the initiation and progression of dental caries.”
Yes, I guess it could be purely coincidental that the AAPD decided to contradict what every parent with even a tiny shred of common sense already knows – at the very same time they’ve just inked the $1 million Coca-Cola deal.
But really? Seriously?
In another report called Heads They Win, Tails We Lose, The Union of Concerned Scientists helps to explain how corporations can corrupt the integrity of science by implementing marketing-based strategies. For example:
Ghostwriting scientific articles
“Corporations corrupt the integrity of scientific journals by planting ghostwritten articles. Rather than submitting articles directly, corporations recruit scientists or contract research organizations to publish articles that obscure the companies’ involvement. Scientists have been compensated $3,000 to $5,000 to place their name and title on an article and submit it for publication (McGarity and Wagner 2008). In some cases, these scientists have had limited involvement in the study design, research, or analysis.
“While the exact extent to which ghostwriting occurs is difficult to measure, confirmed instances reveal that it is abundant. One analysis found that articles on 33 of 44 industry-initiated clinical trials exhibited evidence of ghostwriting (Goetzsche et al. 2007).
- Litigation revealed that Merck employees wrote 20 articles about its now discredited pain drug Vioxx. Of those, 16 listed an external scientist as the primary author, despite the fact Merck personnel had drafted the articles, complete with analysis, before the outside academics even became involved (Ross et al. 2008).
- From 1998 to 2007, Pfizer discreetly facilitated the publication of 15 case studies, six case reports, and nine letters to the editor to boost off-label use of Neurontin, a drug prescribed to treat seizures in people who have epilepsy and nerve pain (McGauran et al. 2010). The number of patients taking the drug rose from 430,000 to 6 million, making it one of Pfizer’s most profitable products (Egilman and Druar 2011). But an investigation found that Pfizer had failed to publish negative results, selectively reported outcomes, and excluded specific patients from analysis (Dickersin 2008). Pfizer failed to note that the drug increased the risk of suicide (Egilman and Druar 2011).
- The Tobacco Institute founded the faux journal Reports on Tobacco and Health Research in 1960 to spread uncertainty about the link between smoking and lung cancer. The journal, circulated to doctors, scientists, and the media, included articles such as “Cancer Personality Pattern Is Reported to Begin in Childhood,” “Lung Specialist Cites 28 Reasons for Doubting Cigarette-Cancer Link,” “Inhalation Tests Fail to Cause Lung Cancer; Virus Suggested,” and “Psychological, Familial Factors May Have Roles in Lung Cancer” (Michaels 2008). In 2003, Merck replicated that strategy, setting up the fake medical journal they called Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine to publish articles sympathetic to Merck products, and distributing it to 20,000 doctors (Krimsky 2009).”
“Corporations selectively publish positive results while under-reporting negative results. They have also published duplicate articles, made negative reports harder to locate, and made positive reports more accessible. While not directly corrupting science itself, these publishing and reporting biases skew the body of evidence.
- One review found publishing and reporting bias regarding 50 drugs or medical devices used to treat 40 medical conditions. For example, of 74 trials of antidepressants, all 38 with positive results were published, while 22 of 36 trials with questionable or negative results were not published (McGauran et al. 2010).
- An investigation found that multiple articles on the efficacy of Risperdal, an anti-psychotic medication, were based on limited research. For instance, the results of one trial appeared in six publications under different authorship (Deyo 2010).
- Pharmaceutical companies have written and published meta-analyses – overviews of results from multiple research projects – which are important in establishing scientific consensus. A study of 691 meta-analyses of anti-hypertension drugs found that those produced by individuals with ties to drug companies were significantly more likely to report results in the companies’ favor. (Yank, Rennie, and Bero 2007).”
Downplaying evidence and playing up false uncertainty
“As scientific understanding of the negative health effects of products and substances such as tobacco, lead, and particulate emissions emerge, companies attack the science and spread doubt about the dangers, undermining regulatory will to protect the public.
- In response to evidence that cigarette smoke increased the risk of lung cancer, R.J. Reynolds argued that “statistical studies cannot prove cause-and-effect relationship between two factors,” “mice are not men,” and “no experimental evidence exists to show that any cigarette smoke constituent is carcinogenic to human lung tissue at the level present in cigarette smoke” (Bohme, Zorabedian, and Egilman 2005).
- The lead industry consistently underplayed scientific reports showing that exposure to lead had serious health effects, especially in children. Lead company officials denied that lead emissions posed any public health risk (Rosner and Markowitz 2002). In response to studies showing that children exposed to lead had developmental problems, a public relations firm argued that the poisoned children had been “sub-normal to begin with” (Michaels and Monforton 2008).”
- The tarnished reputation of university research
- Medical journals: “information-laundering for Big Pharma”?
- Big Pharma’s remarkable powers of persuasion
- Big Tobacco’s lessons for Big Food
- “Sugar is good for you!” – and for the people who sell sugar
- Bioethical journal: “How drug marketing corrupts every part of the scientific and medical network”
- Warning: clinical trials funded by drug companies may appear more truthful than they actually are
- Partners in Slime: Why medical ghostwriting is so alarming