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Medical School - An Exalted & Glorified Institution

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Chapter 10: Article 4

The medical institutions where our doctors are taught have been heavily influenced by pharmaceutical money. Conflicts of interest within these institutions range from seemingly minor things, like students being offered pens, prescription pads and meals paid for by pharma, to more significant conflicts of interest which include:

  • ghost writing, where professors receive financial compensation for signing on as author in research that was actually written by pharmaceutical companies

  • lectures that are given by pharmaceutical representatives

  • course textbooks that were written by pharmaceutical companies

  • funding that is provided by the pharmaceutical companies to the institution for research or classes, sometimes in the range of millions of dollars

  • donations to the institution, and those donations can also range in the multi-millions of dollars.

A New York Time's article had the following to say (Link Here):

In a first-year pharmacology class at Harvard Medical School, Matt Zerden grew wary as the professor promoted the benefits of cholesterol drugs and seemed to belittle a student who asked about side effects.

Mr. Zerden later discovered something by searching online that he began sharing with his classmates. The professor was not only a full-time member of the Harvard Medical faculty, but a paid consultant to 10 drug companies, including five makers of cholesterol treatments...

Dr. Marcia Angell, a [Harvard] faculty member and former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, is among the professors who argue that industry profit motives do not correspond to the scientific aims of academic medicine and that much of the financing needs to be not only disclosed, but banned. 

Brandy Vaughan, a former sales rep for Merck, explains how the industry has infiltrated the medical schools. She explains that medical literature has become little more than pharmaceutical marketing. In an interview (Link Here), she says the following:

"In terms of medical schools, there are certain medical schools which are taking over half their funding from the pharmaceutical industry itself. Pharmaceutical companies have ghost writers writing text books...

"Some professors in medical school now...take more than half their salary directly from the industry, in consulting fees. One great example of this is, unfortunately, our new head of the FDA...[Dr. Robert Califf] used to run Duke's Medical School and he himself has taken millions of dollars in consulting fees from pharmaceutical companies himself. And he ran the research program at Duke, which took in 60% of its funding from the industry itself. He's known for a quote, that says "Regulation hinders innovation." And he is supposed to be regulating the Food and Drug Administration and making sure that food and drugs and vaccines are safe for our populace....

"There are a lot of doctors who spend more time with pharmaceutical reps than they do patients, and that's where they get their information...

"In the field of research, we are seeing pharmaceutical companies hiring scientists and researchers to do studies, and if those studies show any type of negative effect, they can stop the study without alerting anybody...not the FDA, not the CDC, not the Government, and that's what happened with Vioxx, which was a drug that I sold for Merck, that ended up being the largest drug recall in the US.

So we are seeing a lot of what is considered medical science and medical research, actually being marketing for the pharmaceutical company that's selling the product."

To quote a Time’s article (Link Here):

Of Harvard's 8,900 professors and lecturers, 1,600 admit that either they or a family member have had some kind of business link to drug companies — sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — that could bias their teaching or research. Additionally, pharma contributed more than $11.5 million to the school last year for research and continuing-education classes.

What's more, pharma's largesse also flows to the schools themselves in the form of multimillion-dollar endowments. Whether or not the companies are trying to curry favor, they're also building labs and bankrolling scholarships — something that becomes increasingly important as the deteriorating economy causes philanthropic giving to dry up.

A final article article to quote from today states (Link Here):

...consider the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The Oklahoma facility is a medium-sized medical school with two campuses, one in Oklahoma City and one in Tulsa. It had 585 students in 2004.

About 13.5 percent of the medical center's budget came from industrial-pharmaceutical sources in fiscal 2003. Drug giants such as AstraZeneca gave $818,440; Merck gave $801,858; Novartis gave $677,944; and Pharmacia & Upjohn gave $591,430. There were 183 industrial-pharmaceutical grants that year totaling $13.8 million.

CONTINUE to the next article: Ch10: Article 5

Article Sources

  • New York Times Article - Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary Here

  • Interview with Brandy Vaughan, former Merck Sales Rep Here

  • Times Article Here

  • Article that lists pharma funding for University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Here

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