Greed Pushing Big Industries to False Research

Not only have large pharmaceutical companies paid for and disseminated false research, other powerful industries have done the same, often working together. Founded in 1946, the Stanford Research Institute International (splitting from Stanford University in 1970) studied smog and pollution generally and received funding from tobacco and oil companies. SRI scientists also generated false climate change research for the American Petroleum Institute (API) in the 1960s and ’70s. “From the 1950s onward, the oil and tobacco firms were using not only the same PR firms and same research institutes, but many of the same researchers,” CIEL (Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group) President Carroll Muffett said in a statement [7].

In 1946, API established its own body to study pollution from the oil industry. It was called the Smoke and Fumes Committee. The corporate predecessors to Chevron Corp., Exxon Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC were each involved in the Smoke and Fumes Committee through former companies and subsidiaries, often broken-off units of the Standard Oil corporate empire. While the documents show API learned of potential climate change risks as early as 1968, Exxon CEO Lee Raymond said in November 1996, “scientific evidence remains inconclusive as to whether human activities affect the global climate.” As early as the 1950s, the groups shared scientists and publicists to downplay dangers of smoking and climate change [8]. With regard to the alcohol industry, McCambridge in PLOS 2013 summarized, “Strong evidence is misrepresented and weak evidence is promoted. Unsubstantiated claims are made about the adverse effects of unfavorable policy proposals and advocacy of proposals favored by industry is not supported by the presentation of evidence [9].

Similar falsification of research was recently uncovered in the sugar industry. Cristin Kearns published an article in JAMA titled “Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research,” in 2016. They showed the Sugar Association in the early 1960’s began a systematic effort to change public opinion to get the public to consume more sugar and less fat. As part of that effort John Hickson, a sugar-industry executive, funded research by Harvard scientists that was explicitly intended to exculpate sugar as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and cast blame instead on saturated fat. That research appeared as an article in a 1967 edition of the NEJM. One of the scientists Hickson funded eventually became head of nutrition at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he helped draft the government’s first official nutritional guidelines — guidelines that recommended a low-fat diet [10].

Returning to the opiate epidemic, the availability of opiates fueled by the once again widespread false research promotion has created a monster. We now have massive addiction with exponentially rising overdoses resulting in the deaths of many Americans of all ages. It is imperative that we seek other non-pharmacologic treatment modalities. We have no other choice.

References

7. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tobacco-and-oil-industries-used-same-researchers-to-sway-public1/

8. Ibid

9. McCambridge J, Hawkins B, Holden C (2013) Industry Use of Evidence to Influence Alcohol Policy: A Case Study of Submissions to the 2008 Scottish Government Consultation. PLoS Med 10(4): e1001431.

10. Kearns, C. (2016) Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research. JAMA 176(11): 1680–1685.