(Natural Blaze by Brandon Turbeville) Partly a result in the decrease in government funding in innovation, health, science, and general development and partly a result of the close connection between major corporations, government, and academia, there has been a major increase in the “financial partnerships” between universities and Big Pharma over the past several years. Once a relatively rare occurrence, Big Pharma/Big Ed partnerships have become a common sight, with many corporations maintaining massive “integrated programs” and “science hubs” in university institutions. The focus of these programs are not necessarily public health but the development of drugs for Big Pharma profits.
GlaxoSmithKline at Harvard, AstraZeneca at the University of Washington, and Pfizer at the University of California are some of the most glaring examples, but they are by no means even the tip of the iceberg in Big Pharma/Big Ed partnerships. As SOTT.net writes in its article “Big Pharma Pays Universities For Most Medical Research In the United States,
In fact, with the increasing financial ties between academia and the pharmaceutical industry, many drug companies have formed specialized divisions that are solely responsible for seeking research and development relationships with academic institutions.”
One such reason for a greater reliance on Big Pharma for research money is the decline in interest of the U.S. government to fund projects that would theoretically benefit human health and increase living standards through progress and development. For instance, a report in the British Medical Journal stated that “An estimated 60% of biomedical research and development in the United States is now privately funded, and two thirds of academic institutions have equity ties with outside sponsors.” In other words, over half of the medical research conducted at universities is conducted with funding from Big Pharma itself.
A review published in the Mens Sana Monograph suggests that,
This need for large funds is, moreover, coupled with the desire to acquire it without making a dent in one’s own pockets. The easiest way that can happen is getting an interested party to fund it, which has a big stake in the success of the entire venture. Hence, the pharmaceutical industry becomes a willing partner in the whole enterprise.
The Washington Post, surprisingly, explains one reason such heavy corporate funding is a bad idea. It states,
The billions that the drug companies invest in such experiments help fund the world’s quest for cures. But their aim is not just public health. That money is also part of a high-risk quest for profits, and over the past decade corporate interference has repeatedly muddled the nation’s drug science, sometimes with potentially lethal consequences
Ever since the 1980s, more money for medical research has come from Big Pharma than from grants awarded by the NIH. In 2011, Big Pharma spent $39 billion while the NIH only spent $31 billion. This is in part a testament to the fact that, while the U.S. can waste billions on foreign wars and foreign aid, it is pinching pennies with research that could benefit its own people back home. But it’s also a revelation of just how close corporate interests and the University Industrial Complex actually are. Thus, it’s very concerning when one of the greatest forces for cultural “revolution” and Big Pharma are teaming up to such an openly high level.
In addition, SOTT writes of how this growing partnership raises some serious conflict of interest questions. The website writes,
It is no secret that relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies has involved significant financial entanglement, consequently opening a debate on conflict of interest issues.4 Financial incentives provided by drug companies have influenced doctors to engage in inappropriate prescribing habits to promote the purchase and use of the sponsoring company’s drug, thus questioning the credibility of both parties involved.4
This same type of cozy relationship is now becoming prominent between academics and pharmaceutical companies. While financial relationships between doctors and drug companies has come under significant scrutiny, less attention is being paid to financial relationships between academics and the drug industry.4
There is enough evidence to document conflict of interest issues between academics in leadership positions and the drug industry. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals:
Almost every major U.S.- based pharmaceutical company in 2012-and nearly 40 percent worldwide-had at least one board member in a leadership position from a U.S. academic medical center, raising potentially problematic conflict-of-interest questions. The board members were compensated an average of $312,564 by the pharmaceutical companies, while concurrently holding clinical or administrative leadership positions at academic medical centers.6
The study’s senior author, Welld Gallad, MD, MPH points out:
[P]harmaceutical industry board membership by academic medical center leaders could lead to a different kind of potential conflict of interest, since academic leaders wield considerably more influence over research, clinical and educational missions than ordinary physicians or staff who may be targeted for gifts by pharmaceutical representatives.6
Dr. Gallad adds:
The public will have to decide whether these non-profit, and in many cases publicly funded, academic institutions can manage these potential conflicts with internal policies, or whether additional regulation is needed.6
. . . . .
A significant amount of vaccine related research is now being conducted at American academic institutions. Many universities now have their own vaccine research centers, with pharmaceutical companies funding many of the studies. Professors and other academic scientists who conduct these studies often also have personal financial relationships with vaccine manufacturers. This conflict of interest may or may not be revealed in the study’s original publication, depending upon the medical journal in which the study is published.
Concerns have been voiced about the pharmaceutical industry’s lack of transparency with regard to the development and side effects of FDA licensed drugs and vaccines and financial relationships with the medical profession, which promotes the use of those drugs and vaccines. It is logical to ask whether the public can trust the conclusions of vaccine research conducted by academic institutions heavily funded by vaccine manufacturers, which may incentivize researchers to steer research toward conclusions that suit the financial interests of those companies.
One does not need to look too far in order to see that the University research/Big Pharma partnership is creating a dangerous culture. Many academics survive on grants either by government or by corporations and a researcher might be ending his own career if he bucks the institution which is paying for the gravy train. This is one reason university scientists, researchers, and academics are some of the most vociferous guard dogs and defenders of corporations. With Big Pharma paying the bills of most medical research conducted in the United States, there is no wonder why Big Ed is simply becoming the validator of industry science in the sickest nation on the planet. Come to think of it, there is no wonder why the United States is the sickest nation on the planet.