The TI has come under attack in recent years for daring to stand up not only to the pharmaceutical industry, but to the whole system that is failing to protect the public. The system is Increasingly focused on helping the industry increase their profits but unfortunately this comes at a cost. The costs, which are astronomical, are ultimately forced on the shoulders of the taxpayer, but more importantly, extracted from patients and their families who pay it in the cruel currency of pain and suffering.
At the core of this problem lies the ability of the pharmaceutical industry to come up with many ways to funnel large sums of money into the pockets of independent medical researchers who are doing work that bears, directly or indirectly, on the drugs these firms are making and marketing. This has become ubiquitous in every sector of academic medicine, academic research or medical education.
The problem is not just with the drug companies and the researchers but with the whole system—the granting institutions, the research labs, the journals, the professional societies, and so forth. No one is providing the checks and balances necessary to avoid conflicts. Instead organizations seem to shift responsibility from one to the other, leaving gaps in enforcement that researchers and drug companies navigate with ease, and then shroud their deliberations in secrecy. It’s a system that appears increasingly designed to not only tolerate these practices, but encourage them and even reward them.
Charles Seife, professor of journalism at New York University, exposes this dark side of healthcare in an excellent article published today in the Scientific American.