The Rock Ethics Institute

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Privilege, Power, and Pharmaceuticals: Medical Research in a New Era

When Sep 22, 2008
from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library
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Academic research increasingly represents a partnership forged with the pharmaceutical industry. Industry domination of clinical research benefits the interests of corporations at the expense of the public. While our public institutions drive many of the ideas and much creative work behind advances in health, including innovations in the design and/or application of drugs, the pharmaceutical industry participates in the subsequent steps of drug development, including the design and oversight of clinical trials, the publication and dissemination of trial results, and the marketing and promotion of new drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has assumed control not only of the processes of clinical research, but for much of the "education" of doctors, and of the public, about drugs. The serious conflict of interest at the heart of this situation undermines the integrity of the science emerging from collaborations with the pharmaceutical industry. The industry has interest in seeing the products of its investment, new drugs, positively marketed to both doctors and to the public; the role of the medical researcher is to serve patients' interests. 

Commercial influences distort medical science. Scandals involving the withholding of trial data, premature stopping of trials, and other ethical transgressions made public over the last decade have eroded public confidence in science. Changes are urgently needed; researchers and physicians have a responsibility to address this deteriorating situation. Adherence to the principles of scientific integrity, the protection of patients in research trials, and the monitoring and elimination of financial conflicts of interest are critical to restoring public trust in science.

Nancy Olivieri, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C)

Photo on event page.Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine and Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto

Nancy F. Olivieri, M.D., is a Professor of Pediatrics, Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Senior Scientist of the Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto General Hospital. She received training in internal medicine, hematology and molecular biology at McMaster University, University of Toronto, and Harvard University. For more than 20 years, she has conducted both investigator-driven and industry-funded clinical research trials, and is the author of over 200 scientific papers and book chapters. As a protagonist within a controversy involving academic freedom and scientific integrity, dating back to 1996 and continuing to this day, Dr. Olivieri received the Joe Callaway Award for Civic Courage from the Shafeek Nader Foundation; the Community Champion Award, Civil Justice Foundation of the American Trial Lawyers’ Association; and the Milner Memorial Award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Dr. Olivieri obtained a Masters in Medical Ethics and Law at Kings’ College, University of London, in 2003. She is a co-founder of Doctors for Research Integrity, an organization dedicated to the protection of patients participating in clinical research; and a founder and Executive Director of Hemoglobal, a charity which works to improve medical care to children with blood diseases worldwide.