Intended for healthcare professionals


Academic freedom is at risk in dispute over Gardasil, lecturers say

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 03 April 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:741
  1. Melissa Sweet
  1. 1Sydney

Senior academics are outraged that the University of Queensland has asked an academic to apologise to a drug company for his public comments on a vaccine against human papillomavirus that was developed jointly by the university and the company.

Academics at the university and elsewhere say that the request is a threat to academic freedom and warn that it raises worrying concerns about universities’ independence and ability to negotiate conflicts of interest.

The request came after the company, CSL, wrote to the university’s vice chancellor complaining about comments on the radio made by Andrew Gunn, a senior lecturer in general practice.

The programme dealt with the general issue of pharmaceutical marketing and briefly mentioned Gardasil, whose development has reaped millions of dollars for the university as well as public and political kudos.

CSL’s director of public affairs, Rachel David, wrote: “I feel Dr Gunn’s comments are inappropriate and inconsistent with the long-standing relationship CSL has with the University of Queensland and given the involvement of the university in the development of Gardasil.”

On 14 March the university’s secretary and registrar, Douglas Porter, wrote to Dr Gunn, asking him to provide a written apology to CSL stating that the “comments were made by you in your …

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