Clinical research and other drug development and testing activities can be funded, or “sponsored,” by a number of sources, including physicians, universities, government agencies, special interest groups, and pharmaceutical companies. Many people have an understandable concern regarding the reliability of research funded by the pharmaceutical companies that stand to make a profit from the drugs being tested.
While these conflicts of interest will probably always be a concern, it is important to note that there are increasingly more regulations and safeguards being put into place both within the industry and from external sources like the federal government in order to encourage the use of ethical practices in medical research and publishing.
I was also skeptical of the legitimacy and/or motives behind industry-sponsored research, however, what I didn’t realize until I began working within the medical publishing industry was the extent to which research and marketing activities are deliberately segregated by pharmaceutical companies.
For example, the parent company at which I’m currently interning encompasses both a medical publishing agency and a health care marketing agency. Although everyone works in the same building, the agency’s pharmaceutical clients generally require that any of the agency’s staff members who are involved with marketing or advertising for their company not be involved with the planning or publishing of the clinical research being conducted for their products.
So, contrary to what some may perceive to be true, it is not the case that marketing teams are soliciting particular studies or data to be collected in order to help them sell a product. Instead, physicians and researchers are designing and conducting studies based on the scientific and clinical value of the data being produced. In this way, the scientific information is originating from scientists and medical professionals and then being provided to marketing and advertising departments, and not the other way around.
Come back next week for part two of this discussion on the ethical considerations involved in medical publishing.