Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Scientific objectivity

I was reading an article lamenting the use of libel action against scientists, and therefore by extension science itself, when I came across an item about a high school blogger being threatened by such an action because of a blog entry. I take it that the comment  "I take no issue with calling Stanislaw Burzynski a quack and a fraud" gets to the point.

A quack or fraud tries to get money under false pretences - a quack being someone who makes exaggerated or untrue claims about a medicine/drug that he is selling. Burzynski does own the patents to antineoplastons and does stand to gain by their being sold. His opponents say that antineoplastons are unproven. This may be true, but big pharma has an interest in them remaining unproven as they don't own the patents to them and if they were to be proven, the profits they make on their cancer treatments would plummet, with disastrous results for those employed in the industry and conceivably for the research it does.

You see, just as Burzynksi stands to gain from selling his cancer treatment, so do all patent owners of drugs/medicines stand to gain from their sale and therefore from people getting the illness they [claim to] cure/ameliorate. They are all vulnerable to accusations of exaggerating or falsifying claims about their products, and of playing down or undermining the claims of rival products.

I don't see why the medical establishment should be seen as objectively scientific all the while that big pharma has this massive conflict of intetrest, any more than 'mavericks' like Burzynski should. The only solution I can envisage is to remove the perverse incentive of "pay-per-pill".

In a Resource Based Economy, there wouldn't be any money, so no-one could fruitfully be accused of fraud as it would not be technically possible to commit it. The success of drugs/medicines would [could?] only be judged by their effects on patients and not by how much of them was sold or prescribed and there would be nothing to gain by exaggeraton or understating the efficacy of any substance.

Perhaps there is a way of fixing a monetary ecomomy to eliminate the paradox for medicine, but I can't think of it.

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