Remember that “Swine flu” (A/H1N1) scare five years ago?

Some researchers analyzed the news coverage in the UK. To the surprise of, well, absolutely no one, people with connections to the drug industry were way more worried publicly, and were solidly promoting the use of anti-viral and other meds. This despite the fact that the effectiveness of these treatments is, to be charitable, very questionable.
To be fair, of course, many experts are, indeed, working in their industries of choice. Just like, for example, aeronautical experts are going to be found at Boeing. But they really should ID their affiliations and reporters need to keep them in mind:

Researchers found that academics with industry links were six times more likely to rate the potential risk of swine flu as higher.

“Similarly, academics promoting the use of antiviral drugs in newspaper articles were eight times more likely to have industry links than those not commenting on their use.

“The researchers point out that the UK spent an estimated billion pounds on pharmaceutical products during the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic, including antiviral medications and swine flu vaccines.  …..

“There was also uncertainty about the effectiveness of antiviral medication in reducing transmission and complications of influenza. Some dissenting voices argued that the limited benefit of medications such as Tamiflu did not justify their costs.”

more info at the “Nursing Times” web article: http://goo.gl/WERzgB

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4 responses to “Remember that “Swine flu” (A/H1N1) scare five years ago?

  1. as long as we include grant-seeking academics and independents as ‘industry’, i’m fine with these definitions.

  2. There is a public entity research factor that dwarfs the industry influence that is the obsession of journal editors and the like, it’s called the Government/Research complex (thank you Ike).

    Follow the money and check the conflicts seems to be suspended when dealing with gov funded crusades–wonder why? Because the money is really big and the institutions are very much in bed with government agencies.

    Crony science is a phrase that deserves discussion. Junk science is the product of crony science, with the caveat–follow the money and ambition and remember the lure of fame and fortune.

  3. Back in the 1970′s or so, researchers (notably in the field of CFC’s vs ozone) learned that they can generate more grant money by generating publicity that scares the public. That begets press coverage, which begets public anxiety, which begets pressure on politicians with access to grant money. Only when the researchers closed the loop by learning that they can ‘lubricate’ the wheels of the grant money machine by making ‘campaign donations’ to the re-election of politicians did crony science come into being.
    Power corrupts, as they say, and the love of money is the root of all evil.
    Only empirically demonstrable truths can correct the errors generated by crony science, but I fear that this process is excruciatingly slow (I’ve been watching the train wreck that is ‘climate research’ for over 30 years), and great amounts of resources are misspent pursuing poorly documented lines of investigation.

  4. There was a time when I hoped our press would, at least, have someone with technical competence on their staff to help edit their articles.
    It was too much to hope for.
    Now I would settle for someone who was basically literate in the editors’ chair.

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