Today it gives me great pleasure to post a short article written by Dr Gustavo Catalan. I am honoured that he gave me permission to include it in my blog and only hope that the translation does it justice.
Medical research and its funding
More than two thirds of research into medication is financed with private capital. And this means an annual investment of billions of Euros. Naturally, this alliance between research and the pharmaceutical industry entails undoubted risks, and perhaps it would be appropriate to mention that only 5% of funded clinical trials publish unfavourable results as compared to 38% of those with no economic support. On the other hand, the haste for data that can make a profit from invested money– to commercialize the drug – might quicken the process to such an extent that undesirable mid or long-term effects could be overlooked. This does occasionally happen.
Nevertheless, collaboration with the industry does have undoubted advantages. Research, from “bench to bed” needs greater resources than the official institutions can normally provide, and although this technological or human transfer is essential, it is only the tip of the iceberg as reaching the clinical phases is just the conclusion of a long journey. In the end, marketing plays an essential role and, it is evident that, with innumerable interests at play, the trials that bring in a profit are considered more important than other studies which are not involved with the industry but perhaps ( epidemiological, sociological analysis…) may have a greater impact on the health of the population as a whole.
For the above mentioned the symbiosis between medical research and industry is so frutiful but at the same time so in need of strict ethical codes. To such an extent that, without hiding the demonstrated use of the aforementioned collaboration in the advancement of knowledge, a national policy of greater implication would be desirable, to avoid interested biases. And of course, more investment. Because it is completely unacceptable that the maintenance of a competitive scientific structure is left to the whims of the markets. It is unacceptable that health investment is dependent on, and even allowing for the greatest of tenacity, the initiatives of multinational companies and that the lack of incentives for the most qualified organisms, institutions and professionals has transformed health research into the “luck of the draw” linked to the prospects of profit.
Even if this is a highly complex topic it is still certain that the future, after the recent news of the financial strangulation of the CSIC or the well publicised health cuts, cannot afford us even the slightest whiff of optimism. However, we have no option but to continue to believe that luck will return to our side, although in talking about human lives – and not fortunes, of which the politicians are more and more familiar, and especially if dealing with their own – it may not be the most opportune.
Translated by Jonathan McFarland