Medical Ties That Bind

When your doctor recommends a particular medicine or treatment for your heart condition, asthma, diabetes, or other ailment ... who's talking to you?

Is it your doctor making the recommendation, or is it a drug company speaking through your doc? In choosing treatments for you, most physicians rely on what the profession calls "clinical protocols," which are guidelines written by medical researchers and usually published in medical journals. But what the researchers and the journals fail to reveal is the fact that drug makers have their monetary tentacles wrapped around most of the authors of these guidelines, raising major questions about whether your doctor is unknowingly recommending a treatment that has been tainted with drug company cash.

The New York Times reports that a recent survey was taken of 100 of the researchers who write these guidelines. Nine out of ten of them admitted that they have financial ties to the drug industry, including getting drug-company consulting fees and even getting their research financed by the industry. Worse, six out of ten had financial ties directly to the companies making the very drug that they were researching and recommending.

The pharmaceutical giants claim that these monetary ties to researchers are merely an innocent effort to help educate doctors. However, Dr. Marcia Angell, the former editor of the respected New England Journal of Medicine, says the relationship is not at all altruistic or about education: "Most consulting arrangements are simply a way for researchers to make money and the industry to buy their goods will," she told the Times, adding that by paying researchers to serve on advisory boards and to make speeches at industry meetings, "the drug companies retain influence over them to a remarkable degree."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... To learn how you can help sever these corrupting ties that bind, contact the Health Research Group at Public Citizen: 202-588-1000.

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