Archive for Tobacco “Research”

PLoS Tobacco Ban

PLoS Medicine has joined PLoS Biology and PLoS ONE in not accepting “papers where support, in whole or in part, for the study or the researchers comes from a tobacco company.”

Long-time readers of the blog will know that I say, Bravo! I particularly appreciate their rationale:

First, tobacco is indisputably bad for health. … Tobacco interests in research cannot have a health aim—if they did, tobacco companies would be better off shutting down business—and therefore health research sponsored by tobacco companies is essentially advertising.

Second, we remain concerned about the industry’s long-standing attempts to distort the science of and deflect attention away from the harmful effects of smoking. … we do not wish to provide a forum for companies’ attempts to manipulate the science on tobacco’s harms.

They acknowledge this policy will have minimal impact on submissions as PLoS Medicine has not received any manuscripts involving tobacco support and PLoS ONE only two. However, they note that

the business model used to support our open access publishing (the research funder covers publication costs, unless the author requests a waiver) means we would essentially be accepting money from the tobacco industry by publishing their papers. This is unacceptable to the editorial team of PLoS Medicine.

Again, I applaud PLoS for another commendable contribution to the scientific community.

Comments (15)

Drugs, But No Smokes

Given that the Senate is a tad preoccupied with other matters just now, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act may not be brought up for a vote this fall. In the meantime, though, San Francisco has passed a ban on the sale of tobacco in pharmacies starting in October 2008.

Writing in JAMA, Mitchell Katz notes that “82% of pharmacists and 72% of adult consumers surveyed in California believe that pharmacies should not sell tobacco.”

This is nothing new: in Canada, 7 provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Newfoundland-Labrador, and Prince Edward Island) have banned the sale of tobacco in pharmacies, beginning with Ontario in 1993. Of note, the ban had no negative economic impact on pharmacies in these provinces, and in fact they flourished. Indeed, Katz indicates that “97% of California consumers reported that they would continue to patronize their pharmacy as often or even more often if the pharmacy stopped selling tobacco products.”

Regarding the ubiquitous slippery slope argument, Katz notes:

Pharmacies sell other products that may be associated with adverse health effects. For instance, what about the sale of alcohol in pharmacies,given that there are 85 000 alcohol-related deaths per year in the United States?1 What about the sale of candy bars in pharmacies, given the epidemic of obesity? The difference between alcohol or food with high-fat and sugar content and tobacco is that there is no safe level of tobacco as there is with these other substances. Alcohol in moderation can be health promoting.

He goes on to add,

With a ban in place, pharmacy staff can offer the right response when customers ask for a pack of cigarettes:”I’m sorry this is a health-promoting business; we don’t sell tobacco. May I offer you advice on how to quit?”

If only academic medical centers would be so enlightened with regard to banning tobacco industry sponsorship of research and of student coursework.

Comments (3)

No Need for Research of Nicotine in Pregnancy?

This post has been modified in recognition of reports that this center proposal is no longer under consideration for funding by Philip Morris; discussion of the questionable request has been removed, though issues related to research on the safety of nicotine use during pregnancy have been left for reference purposes. In August 2008, a Richmond paper reported on a proposal by the dean of the VCU School of Medicine (Jerome F. Strauss, III, MD, PhD) for a Center for Healthy Pregnancy and Neonatal Outcomes submitted to Philip Morris for up to $30M in funding. Although the proposal was turned down, of lingering concern is Strauss’s statement that

“Research shows that nicotine entering the bloodstream of pregnant women enrolled in smoking-cessation programs improves the health of their unborn children.”

This remarkable claim aside, there remains the dilemma of what to do with moms-to-be who can’t or won’t go cold turkey on smoking cessation. The most recent published data available are from an open-label randomized clinical trial showing that while nicotine replacement products help maintain smoking cessation during pregnancy, they do not promote permanent cessation, and the long-term effects of nicotine exposure on the fetus remain unknown. Unfortunately, this trial was stopped early by its DSMB when too many negative birth outcomes occurred among the group of women using nicotine replacement therapy. Three prior clinical trials conducted in Denmark (two studies) and Canada were inconclusive at best (Canadian study was stopped early as well), and a randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial is underway in the UK. [oddly, Kranzler, cited in the Richmond story, has not yet published the claims he makes to Dovi and only has one review article on the topic from 2003]

The NICHD is funding a cooperative clinical research program (U10HD036104) in minority women specifically addressing “the risk of nicotine exposure to the fetus and during infancy, … [along] a continuum impacting both health and development in later life.” Perfect. The U10 award is in its tenth year, so stay tuned for results from the George Washington University Medical Center.

Although he adamently told the media that the center at the heart of the Philip Morris request would not involve any research nor publish any findings, Strauss appears to be too overcommitted to rework his proposal for a research-oriented sponsor given that he serves as as Dean of the VCU School of Medicine; as Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs for the VCU Health System; and as PI for:

Comments (2)

Marlboro Monopoly Act

You likely know by now that the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a veto-proof margin a bill (H.R. 1108) giving the FDA power to regulate tobacco products. As the NYT notes, “The legislation was partly the result of negotiations with Philip Morris USA, the nation’s largest cigarette company, which split with other companies by endorsing it.” (NYT gives a nice summary of the bill’s provisions that I won’t repeat here.) The other tobacco companies refer to this bill as the “Marlboro Monopoly Act.”

Indeed, Philip Morris spokesman Bill Phelps plainly states that “We remain committed to securing the benefits that legislation would provide for our consumers and stockholders.” Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

VCU-Philip Morris Agreement Researched

Although the NYT has not printed a correction, clarification, editor’s note, retraction, or any other indication that the veracity of Mr. Finder’s reporting has been called into question, they did offer, rightly, the opportunity for VCU to respond in the form of a letter to the editor from President Trani. This letter, although more thoughtfully articulated than his prior memo, continues to downplay the real problems of any university engaging in research service agreements and the even greater ethical problems with this particular research service agreement, setting aside the sponsor for now.

As part of my commentary on this, I disclose that I have been sent a copy of the agreement obtained by a third party through a Va FOIA request (details and downloadable PDF below) and will quote verbatim a few critical points omitted by Trani in his letter and overall response to this story.

For example, secrecy (from the agreement itself):

”19. Neither party shall, without the prior written approval of the other party, (i) advertise or otherwise publicize in a written manner the existence or terms of this AGREEMENT or any TASK ORDER or any other aspect of the relationship between SPONSOR and VCU … If at any time a third party, including without limitation any news organization, contacts VCU concerning SPONSOR, VCU shall make no comment and shall notify promptly SPONSOR of the third party.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

Secret Smoke-Filled Agreements

The NYT today reports on an astoundingly unethical and outrageous research agreement between VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Philip Morris USA. The need to deny existence of this agreement if asked by the press … the ability of Philip Morris to remove everything but prepositions from journal manuscripts and any other form of dissemination … the pre-assignment to the company of intellectual property generated. Jiminy Crickets.
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Continued Tobacco Industry Deception

JAMA also reports the shocking (or not) news that Philip Morris, RJR, et al. continue to deceive the public with false advertising about tar and nicotine levels in their cigarettes. “At the November 13 hearing, Sen Frank R. Lautenberg (D, NJ), who chaired the session, said he had uncovered a lengthy history of false and deceptive cigarette ratings and marketing practices. “It is now clear that the tobacco industry has been aware of the inaccuracy of these ratings for more than 3 decades,” said Lautenberg. … Cigarette manufacturers Altria Group Inc (Philip Morris International) and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co were called to the hearing but refused to attend.” The Supremes will take a listen next.

Leave a Comment

Building Academic Legitimacy

Update: The reason for these meetings can be better understood in light of the VCU-PM master research services agreement.

Not events I would want or expect to come across on a local calendar …

Nov 7 Philip Morris senior leadership summit (provost and vice presidents only) 3-5 p.m.
Nov 7 Philip Morris reception for deans, PM-funded faculty and DoDs 5-7 p.m.

Aside from their outlandishly inethical practices with regard to manipulating research, publications, and policy, Philip Morris et al. have one product line, and that product line is known to be highly addictive, toxic, and lethal. Profits used to fund tobacco industry grants are earned at the cost of millions of lives and billions of dollars worldwide. Why would any academic health center solicit and accept grants and gifts funded solely and directly through the sale of a product they themselves must counsel each and every patient, employee, faculty, student, and community member to avoid or stop using … an industry in direct conflict with their mission to protect and advance public and personal health.

Instead, an academic legitimacy dream come true: the newly constructed $350+ million Philip Morris USA Center for Research & Technology is the flagship member of Virginia BioTechnology Park, “a joint initiative of Virginia Commonwealth University [which gives PM employees affiliate faculty appointments] and the city of Richmond, situated on 34-acres adjacent to the VCU Medical Center [including the NCI-designated Massey Cancer Center, which lists Philip Morris and Altria among its corporate partners]” and home to the VCU Office of Vice President for Research (with the presidentially appointed VPR on comfortable terms with Philip Morris … also a recipient of NIH funding from ORI’s research on research integrity program).

Update: Science and The Chronicle of Higher Education (which includes a thread of comments) note that Philip Morris ended its PM External Research Program. However, this is not the end of PM funding at Universities.
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (12)

Fraudulent “Harm-Reduction” Tobacco Research

Last week’s issue of Circulation includes a report that further fuels my tirade against the tobacco industry as a funder of “scientific” research. Tong & Glanz describe “how the tobacco industry initiated and funded scientific work to counter epidemiological and biological conclusions that secondhand smoke causes cardiovascular disease. The industry pursued this work initially to fight smoke-free regulations; later, the work also was done to promote allegedly “reduced-harm” products.”

The scientific consensus is that frequent exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%. The industry has gone so far as to attribute the effects on blood and vascular function to “an unproven epinephrine-related stress response from odor” … not the toxic smoke itself. After detailing the subtle and not so subtle shortcomings of tobacco-funded study designs, Tong & Glanz conclude that “industry interest in preserving corporate viability has affected the design and interpretation of their cardiovascular studies”.

Specifically, they caution: “The question of whether cardiovascular disease effects, not just carcinogens, can be eliminated with the large number of chemicals in tobacco smoke must be on the forefront in the ongoing “reduced-harm” product debate, a debate that will intensify if the federal Food and Drug Association is granted authority to regulate tobacco products. The industry’s past and recent cardiovascular scientific activities indicate the need for great caution in current debates about future tobacco industry regulation and development of “reduced-harm” tobacco products.”

In commenting on this report, a spokesperson for Philip Morris USA stressed that the company continues to research ways to reduce the health risks from smoking, creating a $350 million center for research and technology in Richmond, Va. Oh joy.

Leave a Comment

Industry Funded Research “Controversy”

From the NYT today:

“The extent to which depictions of smoking actually spur the young to smoke remains a subject of debate. Widely cited research by Dr. James A. Sargent of the Dartmouth Medical School showed a connection between adolescent exposure to smoking in movies and addiction to tobacco. But Dr. Deborah Glik, director of the Health and Media Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the connection appeared strongest among those who were already predisposed by other factors to smoke.”

Let’s see … Dartmouth, no tobacco industry funding. UCLA, currently receives $6 million from Philip Morris to fund the UCLA Adolescent Smoking Cessation Center (plus additional grants for other projects). Hmmm.

Comments (1)

Older Posts »