Marcia Angell has an article in the New York Review of Books that considers three books touching upon modern medicine and unseemly links to corporate pharmaceutical companies.
Angell takes up various problems, but I was intrigued when she got around to how companies now control research, sometimes shading a negative experimental result in a way that is perceived as a positive outcome for their product. See if the following paragaph from Angell strikes you in the same way it did me:
The suppression of unfavorable research is the subject of Alison Bass’s engrossing book, Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial. This is the story of how the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline buried evidence that its top-selling antidepressant, Paxil, was ineffective and possibly harmful to children and adolescents. Bass, formerly a reporter for the Boston Globe, describes the involvement of three peopleóa skeptical academic psychiatrist, a morally outraged assistant administrator in Brown University’s department of psychiatry (whose chairman received in 1998 over $500,000 in consulting fees from drug companies, including GlaxoSmithKline), and an indefatigable New York assistant attorney general. They took on GlaxoSmithKline and part of the psychiatry establishment and eventually prevailed against the odds.
I wonder whether the fact that the last person referred to in the next to last sentence was Eliot Spitzer, subject of a sex scandal, led to the elliptical references all around. It stands out in the article as one place where Angell eschews naming names. Would the fact that someone with an all-too-human failing was involved in standing up to corporate misdeeds really detract that much from the force of the article? [Comments point out that Bass’s focus was not on NY AG Spitzer, but to NY AAG Rose Firestein, and thus there is not a specific reason to avoid naming the cited person. My apologies to Marcia Angell.]