The Nature of Our Better Angels

  • by: |
  • 10/21/2005

Tennessee Williams wrote that, “A vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with.” My comments refer to the October 2005 issue of Nature. In the article, “Cash interests taint drug advice,” authors Rosie Taylor and Jim Giles accuse many of America’s top researchers and physicians of dishonesty and distortions because of financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. This slander is based on their “investigation” that uncovered that — STOP THE PRESSES — many top thinkers work with drug companies. It’s a classic example of guilt by innuendo. Nowhere in the article, nowhere, do the authors cite a single instance, not one, of an inappropriate clinical guideline being drafted by conflicted experts or adopted by academy boards “stacked” with “influenced” panelists. Rather the authors spend their time “revealing” financial conflicts of interest. During my tenure at the FDA I was the senior official in charge of advisory committees. We vetted COI issues with severe diligence — and made sure that our decisions were all public. Just because a world-class expert works with industry does not make her persona non grata. We should all want top minds to help direct national medical decisions. And industry has chosen to work with many of those same individuals for a reason — they’re the best and the brightest. The authors do point out that too many conflicts are not disclosed — and that’s a mistake. Transparency is crucial to earning and retaining public trust. The article does make some good points, but mostly it’s garbage. To quote Woody Allen, “I am at two with Nature.”


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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