Should Journals Publish Industry-Funded Bioethics Articles?


North American bioethics has a growing credibility problem. As the influence of bioethics has grown, so has the willingness of bioethicists to seek out funding from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. These industries have begun to fund bioethics centres, lectureships, consultants, advisory panels, conferences, and private regulatory boards.1_3 The results of this industry-funded work are now making their way into peer-reviewed academic journals. Readers of the medical and bioethics literature have recently seen articles on the ethics of recruiting homeless individuals for research, funded by Eli Lilly;4 on the ethics of biotechnology and the developing world, funded by Glaxo, Merck, and Pfizer;5 on the ethics of stem-cell research, funded by Geron;6 and the ethics of placebo-controlled trials for mood-altering drugs, funded by antidepressant manufacturers.7 They have also seen pharma-funded university bioethicists collaborating on ethics articles with biotech entrepreneurs8 and a medical ethics and humanities journal issue funded by a pharmaceutical lobbying organisation.9 The authors of these articles have disclosed their industry ties, but readers are left to wonder: is an industry-funded bioethicist a bioethicist that we can trust?

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