Friday, January 7, 2011

Vaccines & Science Revisited: Watch the Pharmaceutical Companies

A little over a year ago, I wrote a series of blog posts about vaccines and science. In honor of the Wakefield studies officially being found fraudulent (there's a decent post at the blog Modern School--with links!--about the study's history), I am reposting them, but with a few updates.

Since my original posting of those, I have grown more skeptical of medical studies, particularly as they are increasingly being funded by pharmaceutical companies and reviewed by outside, for-profit review boards. Given the severe conflicts of interests inherent in such arrangements, I hardly have confidence in the truths of the outcomes of these studies. Secondly, the findings of Dr. John Ioannidis (fyi: the task related to this post that took me the longest was spelling this guy's name correctly), which I highly recommend checking out, have also increased my skepticism. Ioannidis is not so much critical of the scientific process as he is critical of what happens to the scientific process in the contexts of medical treatments, academia, and our own (too high) expectations of what science can tell us.

That being said, it is the corrupting forces of money, fame, and politics on the scientific process that has caused my skepticism; my faith in science has not diminished, not because I think it's some kind of magic, but because it's the best process we've got for uncovering a few truths about the world around us. After all, Ioannidis is a true scientist in the sense that he wants to make the process more pure, truthful, and skeptical. How very scientific of him.

UPDATE I: I was cleaning up my delicious bookmarks this morning and came across this article, also by Carl Elliot, from the Chronicle of Higher Education on the phenomenon of medical industry "thought leaders," who are medical doctors paid by pharmaceutical companies to talk to other doctors about "research" findings. I meant to include it yesterday, but had forgotten about it.Take a look.
UPDATE II: Just out for a run, I realized I forgot about another article pertinent to this. (That's what I get for hitting "PUBLISH POST" so impetuously). Here's an article in Vanity Fair about drug trials and how they're increasingly being done in unregulated zones, not to mention on poor people, overseas.

(photo by flickr user jmaklary)

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