Intended for healthcare professionals


Commercial influence in control of non-communicable diseases

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 12 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k110
  1. Kasi Whitaker, intern1,
  2. Douglas Webb, team leader1,
  3. Natalia Linou, policy specialist1
  1. 1HIV, Health, and Development Group, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP, New York, NY, USA
  1. Correspondence to: N Linou Natalia.linou{at}

Policy makers engaging with industry must understand the risks

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a threat to health and development globally, accounting for 72% of all deaths in 2016.1 The UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) include a target to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by one third by 2030.2 To achieve this target and all 17 goals by 2030, the UN encourages public-private and civil society partnerships (see goal 17).

New global partnerships for development are necessary because the ambition, scope, and scale of the SDG agenda require coherent action by all parts of society. Although including diverse stakeholders provides opportunities to pool resources and expertise, it also brings potential risks and questions around legitimacy and accountability.3 This is especially true for public health policy, where involving private sector entities often presents real or perceived conflicts of interest.

We know, for example, that doctors’ behaviours can be influenced by the drugs industry.4 Similarly, efforts by the tobacco industry to undermine tobacco control …

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