The Influence of Industry Sponsorship on the Research Agenda: A Scoping Review

Corporate interests have the potential to influence public debate and policymaking by influencing the research agenda, namely the initial step in conducting research, in which the purpose of the study is defined and the questions are framed. In this scoping review, authors identified  and synthesized studies that explored the influence of industry sponsorship on research agendas across different fields.

The 36 articles reviewed included nineteen cross-sectional studies that quantitatively analyzed patterns in research topics by sponsorship and showed that industry tends to prioritize lines of inquiry that focus on products, processes, or activities that can be commercialized. Seven studies analyzed internal industry documents and provided insight on the strategies the industry used to reshape entire fields of research through the prioritization of topics that supported its policy and legal positions. Ten studies used surveys and interviews to explore the researchers’ experiences and perceptions of the influence of industry funding on research agendas, showing that they were generally aware of the risk that sponsorship could influence the choice of research priorities.

The authors concluded that corporate interests can drive research agendas away from questions that are the most relevant for public health. Strategies to counteract corporate influence on the research agenda are needed, including heightened disclosure of funding sources and conflicts of interest in published articles to allow an assessment of commercial biases. They also recommended policy actions beyond disclosure such as increasing funding for independent research and strict guidelines to regulate the interaction of research institutes with commercial entities. The results of the scoping review support the need to develop strategies to counteract corporate influence on the research agenda.

Citation: Fabbri A, Lai A, Grundy Q, Bero LA.The Influence of Industry Sponsorship on the Research Agenda: A Scoping Review. American journal of public health. 2018 Nov;108(11):e9-16.

Australian public health advocates seek access to regional trade pact negotiations

The prime lobby group for American pharmaceutical manufacturers has been given privileged access to negotiations for a major regional trade pact that could see the cost of medicines skyrocket in Australia, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Public health advocates and business groups are concerned that pharmaceutical giants will be able to advance their commercial interests while the details of the pact are kept secret from the Australian public.

It’s true: Drug companies are bombarding your TV with more ads than ever

According to a column in the Washington Post, drug makers in 2014 spent $4.5 billion marketing prescription drugs, up from $3.5 billion in 2012. That’s also up from the $2.5 billion drug makers spent in 2000, or $3.39 billion in 2015 dollars when adjusted for inflation. The United States is just one of a few countries that allows drug companies to advertise directly to patients.

Drug companies accused of blocking access to cheap drugs

Access to cheap drugs which can prevent blindness is being blocked by pharmaceutical companies, a British Medical Journal investigation has alleged. The Daily Telegraph reports that BMJ describes how drug manufacturers are accused of attempting to derail trials which would show that a drug which costs just £65 a dose works just as well as current treatments sold to the NHS for more than ten times as much.

When it comes to e-cigs, Big Tobacco is concerned for your health

The health warning on a MarkTen electronic cigarette package is 116 words long. That’s much longer than the warnings on traditional cigarette packs in the United States. Nicotine, the e-cig warning says, is “addictive and habit-forming, and it is very toxic by inhalation, in contact with the skin, or if swallowed.” “Why the concern?” asks a special investigative report from Reuters.

UK alcohol industry’s “billion units pledge”: interim evaluation flawed

Flaws in the United Kingdom’s Department of Health’s interim evaluation of an alcohol industry pledge to remove one billion alcohol units from the market raise questions about the claimed success argues a new report in the British Medical Journal. The authors say that the report should be withdrawn and revised targets set.

Gun deaths in New Mexico

About 34 percent of New Mexicans say they have guns at home, lower than in other states where the number can be closer to 50 percent. However, New Mexico is one of the states with the least amount of gun regulation – and a high firearm-related fatality rate. A report from KUNM in New Mexico finds that a large majority of gun deaths in New Mexico are from suicide, which account for nearly 75 percent of gun deaths in New Mexico.