Big Tobacco: Role Model or Pariah for the Pharmaceutical Industry?

By Nicholas Freudenberg for the Symposium of the Geneesmiddelenbulletin on June 30th 2016 in Leiden ’Science and Economy’. It was also translated and published in the Bulletin.

In the last two decades, the public health community has generally agreed that the tobacco industry has no role in setting health policy or sponsoring research on tobacco. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control bans industry participation in policy deliberations on Tobacco, most major global public health organizations and national health departments have sharply limited their interactions with representatives of the tobacco industry, and many universities and some journals no longer accept or publish research supported by the tobacco industry.

However, no such agreement has been reached on the appropriate role for corporations and trade associations in other sectors such as pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, and alcohol. Some health and business analysts emphasize that the different roles that the products of the tobacco, medicines, food and alcohol industries play in patterns of health and disease make any judgments inappropriate and misguided, especially in the case of the drug industry. “Such comparisons (between the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries) are not just absurd, they are irresponsible as they contribute to patients not taking prescribed medicines that can clearly benefit them”, wrote one former drug industry executive.  Read more