Conflict of interest in H1N1 swine flu pandemic

Read time: 2 mins

From the TELLME website

Scientists interviewed by the media are not necessarily independent. During 2009 swine flu pandemic, the responsibility for publicly inflating the risk fell less on authorities than on experts whose link with pharmaceutical industry were often undisclosed; it is thus necessary for all academics to declare any potential conflict of interests and for journalists to explore further and report such cases, since undisclosed conflict of interests degrades public confidence in medical research, to the detriment of the whole scientific community.

These are the striking conclusions of a group of researchers from different UK scientific institutions, who published on the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health the results of a research they carried out on UK newspaper print coverage of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009.

They scrutinized 425 articles from different sources – Daily, Sunday, tabloid, middle market, and EET publications on both sides of the political spectrum – to assess the extent of competing interests among sources quoted on the topic in the period between April and July 2009, when major decisions about public health response to the emerging threat have been made.

They found out that risk assessments made by academics with some competing interests – such as grants, honoraria, speakers’ fees, consultancies, advisory roles, employment, and directorship/stock ownership – were almost six times as likely to be higher than those from official agencies, compared with risk assessments made by academics without any industry links. Also, only three articles out of the 425 mentioned that the quoted academic had a potential competing interest.

They concluded that academics with links to the pharmaceutical industry were more likely to talk up the risks of the swine flu pandemic in the media and promote the use of drugs than those without these ties.

Articoli correlati

altri articoli

Ricerca e Innovazione, motori dell'Europa

A ridosso delle elezioni europee del 26 maggio, il sostegno alla ricerca scientifica non è in cima alla lista delle priorità dei candidati. Eppure, ricerca e innovazione sono il volano della crescita, e senza forti investimenti e chiare strategie l'Europa è destinata a soccombere nella dura competizione intenazionale nell'economia della conoscenza. Presentiamo qui il testo che Luca Moretti (CNR, Bruxelles) ha scritto per il Libro bianco del Gruppo 2003 "La riceca scientifica in Italia per una società sostenibile e sicura". il testo analizza le possibilità poste dal prossimo Programma quadro Horizon Europe. Si tratta di quasi 100 miliardi di euro per il 2021-2027, che rappresentano una scommessa esistenziale per l'Europa, per la quale si pone anche la sfida dell'uscita del Regno Unito e l'emergere dei sovranismi.