So for Poses the mere receipt for pharmaceutical research dollars is like alchemy, transforming the pure, virginal scientist into someone who â€“ along with his or her results â€“ can be twisted into something that reflects the desire for profits, not the public health. By his standards Gertrude Elion, Louis Pasteur, Josh Lederberg, Joseph Goldstein, Phil Sharp, Nobel Laureates all, are untrustworthy tools while Poses is the trusted one because they take or took drug money or worked for drug companies while he Poses just got one Merck grant back in 1997-1999 (which he never declared on his blog).
He gives two examples
â€œFor the final words, let me quote Dr Stefan Kertesz, who was commenting on the pervasiveness of conflicts of interest affecting the 2004 National Cholesterol Education Panel guidelines that suggested drastic lowering of cholesterol for patients with heart disease and diabetes. (Hat tip for this to DB's Medical Rants.) These controversial guidelines may be one reason physicians feel compelled to use drugs to lower cholesterol which have, like ezetimibe, no proven independent benefits for their patients.â€
Controversial? Most of the people who Poses and Kertesz slime by association did the original work to establish the value of statins in the 1980â€™s. Does Poses not prescribe statins to people with high LDL and low HDL. And for him to say he wonâ€™t prescribe Vytorin because it has not proven independent benefit is shocking. It is both wrong and demonstrates he practices political science, a science driven by his guilt by association mentality.
Poses has also remained silent about the rash of websites that have popped up urging people to sue Merck and Schering for false claims, to stop taking Vytorin and switch to â€œnaturalâ€ cholesterol lowering products that they sell, etc. No conflict there? Is it ok for physicians to promote and consult for companies pushing this approach?
Let us go further. So obsessed is he with the fear of pharma infiltration of medicine and science that he casts a blind or biased eye towards other sources of conflict. Indeed, he ignores his own position stated in another post: â€œI think Anaissie et al have demonstrated the glaring need for tough regulations requiring disclosure of all financial (and probably political) conflicts of interest affecting anyone who can make decisions, for individuals or organizations, in health care. Basically similar regulations should apply not only to government agencies and academic medical institutions, but also all other health care organizations, not-for-profit and for-profit included.â€
Indeed, by focusing exclusively on financial conflicts and indeed only one subset of such monetary influences â€“ ignoring funding from foundations, government business grants such as SBIR funds, money from consulting for trial attorneys or tort settlements, -- Poses and others ignore other forms of biases that can be as or more dangerous. As John P. A. Ioannidis wrote in Why Most Published Research Findings Are False:
â€œConflicts of interest and prejudice may increase bias, u. Conflicts of interest are very common in biomedical research, and typically they are inadequately and sparsely reported. Prejudice may not necessarily have financial roots. Scientists in a given field may be prejudiced purely because of their belief in a scientific theory or commitment to their own findings. Many otherwise seemingly independent, university-based studies may be conducted for no other reason than to give physicians and researchers qualifications for promotion or tenure. Such nonfinancial conflicts may also lead to distorted reported results and interpretations. Prestigious investigators may suppress via the peer review process the appearance and dissemination of findings that refute their findings, thus condemning their field to perpetuate false dogma. Empirical evidence on expert opinion shows that it is extremely unreliable].
But let us focus on other forms of bias.
For instance, the Prescription Project, which according to itâ€™s website seek to ensure that â€œ industry-physician relationships are free of conflicts of interest and that physicians base their prescribing decisions on accurate and unbiased information is essential to promoting sound and cost effective health care.â€
The Prescription Project has advisory committee members that consult for or work for the largest HMOs and the generic lobbying group. It obtains substantial funding from George Soros, as do many other organizations intertwined with The Prescription Project. The PP also â€œcollaboratesâ€ with the Community Catalyst Group, another leftist organization that receives support from the Prescription Access Litigation Project. So the Prescription Project benefits indirectly from an organization that receives funding from trial lawyers.
Should Poses be suspicious about the choice of drugs made by The Prescription Project based on their source of funding? Not a peep.
In the end, Poses may be right to be cautious but the caution should be comprehensive or it is simply part of an ideological push or grab for power.
The point is, conflicts are a problem but ideological agendas and professional hubris can be deadly or truly damaging. I have not even touched the human cost of Steve Nissenâ€™s attack on ADHD medicines, Avandia, etc. or the hype surrounding vaccines or SSRIs. I will only quote Marcia Angell who noted:
â€œModern history is replete with instances of fervent beliefs or conventional wisdom being proved wrong by scientific research. Only a commitment to evidence can test the hopes, fears and biases that otherwise would have full sway. Science is sometimes messy and slow, but itâ€™s the only method we have to answer questions about the material world and to evaluate the many health scares that recurrently sweep across the country. Like democracy, itâ€™s better than whatever is second best, and we ignore it at our peril.â€