Accepting the Side Effects of Separating Research and Industry

Sismondo suggests that a total severing of the relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and medical research is the most complete solution to the problem of bias within the system of research, trials and publication on drugs. Such a separation between the two forces does seem to be the most effective method of doing so, but one point of contention that may arise could be that it may ultimately leave the research and academic side with much less funding than it currently has when backed by its corporate counterparts. Money being what motivates those involved in research with interests other than accuracy and truth, removing much of it from the equation would successfully remove those actors who Sismondo shows that most bias stems from. However, it could be argued that letting commercial interests have a role in the research aspect of medicine may be more beneficial than harmful to it. Without pharmaceutical companies’ interest and money, naturally there would be far less resources available for the doing of research itself, the quality of research and amount of knowledge generated could diminish. Whether or not this would outweigh the harm done by bias in research is dependent on one’s perception of the purpose and possibilities of medicine itself. The capitalistic view of medicine that currently prevails has us believing that a competitive market- and money-driven system will necessarily result in the best possible drugs succeeding. However, as we have seen in the course material thus far, this system may not warrant such confidence that it delivers the best results; healthcare is one field in which its goals (providing quality care for patients) cannot be modified or warped without compromising its ability to accomplish them, and a market view has been shown to be too susceptible to other influences to be the best choice for medicine. Sismondo acknowledges that the separation he proposes would fundamentally change medicine as we know it, and it seems to me that this would include abandoning our faith in the market system, but this may prove difficult to convince people to do.

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