Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Feature Drug industry sponsorship

Who's funding WHO?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 15 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:338

Rapid Response:

BMJ goes for the glitz

Ethical questions about inappropriate pharmaceutical funding of
doctors and health research are among the most important issues now
confronting public health and clinical medicine. They have a huge impact
on health systems and society. Consequently, it is unfortunate to read
this story sensationalizing an ethical non-event, because it diverts
attention from real events that really matter. Here we find a story in
which the protagonist, Dr. Benedetto Saraceno, neither requested nor
received the funds in question. Framed with colour photos and callout text
boxes to call attention to itself, the tale presents a cartoon caricature
celebrating the lofty ideals of a pharmaceutical funder standing up to the
money laundry at WHO.

There may be a story in the events this article reports and lessons
to be learned by reflecting on it, but not the one we read here. Polishing
GSK's image based on this account discredits the BMJ and serious efforts
to rethink and fix problems resulting from the influence of pharmaceutical
money that is too often pernicious. Are we really supposed to congratulate
GSK, as the author implies, for ensuring tansparency and preserving their
lofty moral stature because they withdrew funds that weren't requested by
a fabricated culprit? It is especially sad, because the values and
reputation of Dr. Saraceno are so completely at odds with the picture
presented in this article.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 February 2007
Mitchell G Weiss
Professor and Head of Department of Public Health & Epidemiology
Swiss Tropical Institute, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland