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New Research Scandal: Scientist’s Hidden Tobacco Agenda Exposed

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
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Key concepts: Tobacco, Health and Philip Morris

 
(NaturalNews) Scientific research is sometimes tedious, often exciting and, in some cases, not exactly ethical. A case in point: prominent psychiatrist and strong proponent of anti-depressants, Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., was recently discovered to have accepted $800,000 from drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, a fact he failed to disclose. Emory University learned of this violation of basic research ethics and took away Nemeroff’s prestigious department chairmanship (http://www.naturalnews.com/025171.html). Now a new research scandal has come to light involving another powerful industry unethically trying to influence research – but this time it isn’t Big Pharma, it’s Big Tobacco.

It took two non-American investigators, Ross MacKenzie (School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Australia) and Jeff Collin (Centre for International Public Health Policy, University of Edinburgh, Scotland) to piece together a paper trail exposing some shady business involving an American scientist working on the sly for Philip Morris. Their findings are published this week in PLoS Medicine journal.

MacKenzie and Collin did their detective work by studying previously confidential tobacco industry documents made publicly available online following litigation. The researchers concluded Roger Walk, who worked as an "independent" scientist, was in reality a Philip Morris consultant, working on the tobacco giant’s behalf to establish close connections with a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre in Thailand called the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI) and to develop relations with key officials and local scientists.

The CRI carries out activities in support of the WHO’s public health programs and is an internationally renowned teaching institution. MacKenzie and Collin’s study suggests Walk used the connections he made to influence the study and teaching of environmental toxicology — the study of how chemicals in the environment, including tobacco smoke, can injure human health — at the institute. The scientist’s hidden agenda? To advance the interests of Philip Morris within Thailand and across Asia.

The newly discovered link between Philip Morris and the CRI discussed in their PLoS Medicine paper raises suspicions that the tobacco industry is influencing medical research at the institution. This is especially troubling because of the CSI’s WHO affiliation, the researchers point out. Article 5.3 of the international treaty called the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control asserts public health policies must be protected from the vested interests of tobacco companies.

Clearly, MacKenzie and Collin say in their newly published report, better safeguards must be put in place to prevent tobacco companies from thwarting public health goals aimed at smoking cessation. "While sensitivities surrounding royal patronage of the CRI (Princess Chulabhorn, the daughter of the King of Thailand heads the institute) make public criticism extremely difficult, indications of ongoing involvement by tobacco industry consultants suggest the need for detailed scrutiny of such relationships," Mackenzie and Collin stated in a media release.

WHO statistics show the huge impact of smoking on health worldwide — an estimated 1.3 billion people are smokers and every 6.5 seconds a current or former smoker dies from a tobacco-related illness.

You can read the full text of "A Good Personal Scientific Relationship": Philip Morris Scientists and the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok by Ross MacKenzie and Jeff Collin here: http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlse…

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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