Ethics

Pharma Buys a Conscience

"The pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries are funneling more and more cash into the pockets of academics who teach and study ethics," observes philosophy professor Carl Elliott, who works at a bioethics center. "Bioethicists have written for years about conflicts of interest in scientific research or patient care yet have paid little attention to the ones that might compromise bioethics itself," he notes, pointing to several cases in which companies like Eli Lilly have used funding to pressure ethicists into censoring or changing their views.

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Journalism for Hire?

The National Association of Science Writers (NASW) is debating the ethics of a job advertisement sent to its members from Chicco Chandler, a PR firm that "works exclusively with the pharmaceutical/biotech industry" and boasts of past involvement in PR for Viagra, Celebrex and Zoloft, with clients including Agouron, Amgen, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Novo Nordisk and Pfizer.

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Nature Takes a Step in the Right Direction

Nature, England's leading scientific journal, has announced a new policy. Beginning in October, it will "be encouraging authors to declare any competing financial interests in relation to research papers." This is "a welcome and probably inevitable decision," reports the Guardian of London, noting that science has become "intimately linked with industry. ...

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Spinning Science Into Gold

Traditionally, universities have been reservoirs of independent thinking where tenured faculty had the academic freedom to analyze and interpret science and its implications for society without pressure from financially interested parties. But as funding ties between private industry and universities grow, the pool of independent research is shrinking. Karen Charman examines the growing sense of intimidation felt by academic critics of the biotechnology industry in particular.

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McDonald's Practices Hypocrisy, Deserves No Break Today

Yesterday McDonald's announced it would be "providing more information about the specific source of the natural flavoring" it uses. However, today McDonald's refused to provide a spokesperson to CNN for an interview. Yesterday's announcement came after vegetarians filed lawsuits and some Hindus smashed windows upon discovering that McDonald's french fries cooked in oil were also cooked in meat flavorings.

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A Stand for Scientific Independence

Editors at the world's most prominent medical journals, alarmed that drug companies are exercising too much control over research results, have agreed to adopt a uniform policy that reserves the right to refuse to publish drug company-sponsored studies unless the researchers involved are guaranteed scientific independence. The journal editors decided to act after several recent cases involving charges that drug companies tried to withhold research results or present them in the most favorable way.

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