Conflict of Interest

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The following brief commentary appeared on the Manhattan Institute's, along with similar reactions to the "conflicts of interest" debate from Richard Epstein, ACSH Trustee Dr. Thomas Stossel, and others.

The pharmaceutical industry is a powerful innovative force, both in the creation of new life-saving technologies and the underwriting of academic medical research. Yet there is now a sweeping "conflicts of interest" movement aimed squarely at curtailing academic-industry collaboration in biomedical research. Critics, like Dr. Arnold Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, assert that ties between researchers and industry are unethical. But the campaign to purge industry experts from corporate boards, limit their compensation, or forbid them honoraria chills scientific debate and deprives the public of valuable medical insights.

The conflict-of-interest activists focus entirely on the allegedly biasing effects of money while ignoring how other conflicts can bias scientific interpretation. Why should having served on the Pfizer Board raise questions about hidden agendas -- while being a lifelong member of Greenpeace or Public Citizen does not?