Intended for healthcare professionals


Should industry sponsor research?

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 23 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:260

Researchers must recognise damage done by overt association with formula manufacturers

  1. Tony Waterston, Consultant paediatrician (,
  2. Ashok Nathwani, Consultant paediatrician,
  3. David Morley, Emeritus professor,
  4. Neela Shabde, Consultant paediatrician,
  5. Nick Spencer, Professor,
  6. Gilles de Wildt, General practitioner,
  7. Pam Zinkin, Retired senior lecturer in child health
  1. Arthur's Hill Clinic, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 6BT
  2. Child Development Centre, Portsmouth PO4 8LD
  3. Institute of Child Health, London WC1N 1EH
  4. Albion Road Clinic, North Shields NE29 0HG
  5. Department of Community Paediatrics, University of Warwick, Warwick
  6. 17 Jiggins Lane Surgery, Birmingham B31 2EB
  7. 45 Anson Road, London N7 0AR
  8. St Richard's Hospital, Chichester PO19 4SE
  9. *David Candy is a member of the professional advisory panel of Nestlé UK.
  10. William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, Kent TN24 0LZ
  11. Portman Group, London W1M 7AA

    EDITOR—The issue that Lucas fails to tackle in his article on collaborative research with infant formula companies is conflict of interest in relation to research.1 Much of his article justifies the need for bottle feeding (with which no one would argue), plays up the educational role of formula manufacturers (highly questionable, as their material has been shown to have biased content), and casts doubt on the long term benefits of breast feeding (not relevant to the key issue). He strays into the area of educational sponsorship, where there is far less justification for industry support than in research, which is notoriously difficult to fund.

    Lucas makes virtually no mention of what the opponents of sponsorship are worried about: the aggressive sales tactics of formula manufacturers in poor developing countries (now confirmed in a global study that has been endorsed by Unicef2) and the inevitability of a bias towards formula feeding in those who take money from the industry. It is a blot on the reputation of paediatricians world wide that they have been seen to side with milk companies in what is a highly unbalanced marketing struggle; the example of the Indian Paediatric Association is a shining exception.

    For most babies who need artificial …

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