Scientist: Pharma ties may bias research

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Scientist analyzes the impact of pharma ties on the intellectual freedom of research centersPharmaceutical companies sponsor an increasing number of research studies, and one scientist has set out to analyze the impact of this trend on the intellectual freedom of research centers.

Writing in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics Dr. Giovanni A. Fava claims that this freedom may be seriously jeopardized by the fact that the drug industry controls many scientific societies, journals and clinical practice guidelines.

Editors, reviewers and consultants to medical journals, scientific conferences and research organizations frequently have ties to special interest groups. As a result, Fava draws attention to problems such as internal censorship, biased interpretation of clinical trials or information selection.

"Members of special interest groups … move from one meeting to another to illustrate the wonderful properties of the drugs to be launched … have their slides prepared and checked by the companies… sign ghostwritten papers and are promptly substituted if they do not have impact on prescriptions, " writes Fava.

He adds that they are also frequently "gatekeepers of corporate interest in scientific information" by serving as journal editors or reviewers with the task of preventing the dissemination of data that may be in conflict with the interests of the group they represent.

In conclusion, Fava stresses the value of independent investigators without ties to the industry.

Fava works for the department of psychology at the University of Bologna, Italy, and the department of psychiatry, State University of New York at Buffalo.
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