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    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Pharma Payola: An NIH researcher has been convicted of accepting pharmaceutical industry bribes:

    A senior government scientist originally from Baltimore pleaded guilty yesterday to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed fees from the same drug manufacturer whose public-private research collaboration he oversaw.

    .....In late 1997, representatives of Pfizer approached Sunderland about his agency joining a scientific collaboration. It was to involve researchers at Pfizer and NIH who were searching for Alzheimer's biomarkers, physical traits in the blood or cerebral spinal fluid indicating the presence and progress of the disease.

    Prosecutors said that Sunderland joined the collaboration but did not tell his bosses that he cut a side deal for personal payments from Pfizer on the same project.

    During his five years as a consultant, Pfizer paid Sunderland $125,000 in retainer fees, $35,000 to attend company meetings and additional money for related travel expenses, court documents show. Sunderland did not disclose to his supervisors at the National Institute of Mental Health the nature of his work and compensation from Pfizer.

    posted by Sydney on 12/09/2006 08:34:00 AM 1 comments


    Whether you believe the strident claims of the pharmaceutical industry ("SOMEONE must pay for research, development, and expert consultation that is ultimately for mankind's good"), or the equally heated cries of Big Pharma's naysayers ("we can't trust anything they tell us"), it is clear that the system that brings new drugs and biomedical devices to the market is flawed. If we assume that ANY industry-- once given the latitude to generate the very data that sells its products-- will remain pristine, we are indeed naive. We as patients and physicians need to shoulder part of the blame, too, since our expectations are a driving force behind this machine.
    I've heard people suggest a publically-funded system that would undertake development of new medical devices and pharmaceuticals; it's a great idea at first blush. But what would this mean for intellectual property and patent rights, and who would oversee such a huge--and potentially corruptible-- organization? How in the world would it be funded, particularly in a country that already spends such a big chunk of its GDP on health care?
    I'm all for maximizing the safety of medical intervention, but we are currently at the mercy of a juggernaut that will be resistant to any change in direction. Perhaps this is an additional task for those class-action "fat" lawyers to take on. After all, Big Pharma has nice, deep pockets... Come to think of it, perhaps they already have!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:22 PM  

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