Carl Elliott from Univ. of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics - an excellent bioethics think tank - has a great commentary
on Eli Lilly's efforts to bolster sales of its new and very expensive antisepsis drug, Xigris, through (among other things) its funding of the "Values, Ethics & Rationing in Critical Care Task Force." The story broke with the Wall Street Journal
on September 18 (available here
with a subscription). Elliott is predictably and properly critical of the potentially insidious influence of corporate dollars -- especially, it seems, Big Pharm's dollars -- on the research agenda and opinions of bioethicists. He concludes:
Somehow corporate-funded bioethicists have not been touched by the bad publicity. Many bioethicists continue to insist that they are learning from their industry relationships and shaping company policy for the better. A task force commissioned by the two major American professional bioethics bodies—the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics—concluded last year that private corporations should be encouraged to seek out paid bioethics consultants, because "bioethics will have an impact on that (corporate) activity only if bioethicists can be part of the dialogue." The task force went on to endorse the practice of bioethicists advertising their own services as private consultants.
So the next time you meet a bioethicist, pay close attention; he may look like a bioethicist, but when you peel back his mask, you just might see the adman smiling back.