Public Universities Get an Education in Private Industry

At the University of California, Davis, researchers are regularly invited to attend on-campus meet-and-greets with potential corporate funders to discuss possible sponsorship opportunities. Handshakes and business cards are routinely exchanged—so are nondisclosure agreements, writes Molly McCluskey in The Atlantic. Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist at U.C. Davis, says such meetings and the attendant nondisclosure agreements are commonplace and that it’s university administrators—rather than the corporations themselves—who encourage their professors and researchers to attend. I spent a year poring over documents and talking to universities, companies, lawyers, and researchers to figure out what kind of role corporate funding plays in public-university studies across the United States. Nearly all of the people I spoke with talked about the increasing ease with which corporate representatives have access to researchers, although some were more comfortable with the arrangement than others.

Inside the Academic Journal That Corporations Love

A recent lawsuit against Monsanto offers a clear and troubling view into industry strategies that warp research for corporate gain, Paul Thacker writes in Pacific Standard, an investigative magazine.  In a lawsuit regarding the possible carcinogenicity of the pesticide Roundup, plaintiffs’ lawyers suing Monsanto charge the company with ghostwriting an academic study finding that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is not harmful. Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weed killer and is critical for successful cultivation of genetically modified crops such as corn and soybean, which are resistant to the pesticide. Ghostwriting remains pervasive in some areas of academic research; in 2010, Thacker helped author a Senate report on the matter. Studies drafted by corporations and then published in scientific journals with academic authors have been used to sway government decisions, court cases, and even medical practice.

Framing the tax and health nexus: a neglected aspect of public health concern

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Previous studies have described various associations between tax policy and health. This article proposes a unifying conceptual framework of ‘Five R’s’ to stimulate awareness about the importance of tax to health improvement. First, tax can improve representation and democratic accountability, and help make governments more responsive to the needs of its citizens. Second, tax can create a revenue stream for a universal pool of public finance for health care and other public services. Third, progressive taxation when combined with appropriate public spending can help redistribute wealth and income and mitigate social and health inequalities. Fourth, the re-pricing of harmful products (e.g. tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food) can help reduce their consumption. Fifth, taxation provides a route by which certain harmful industries can be regulated. The paper also discusses the barriers that hinder the full potential for taxation to be used to improve health, including: weak tax administrations, large ‘shadow economies’, international trade liberalisation, tax avoidance, transfer pricing by transnational corporations and banking secrecy.  The authors suggest that a greater awareness of the manifold associations between tax and health will encourage health practitioners to actively promote fairer and better taxation, thereby helping to improve health and reduce health inequalities.

Citation: Mccoy D, Chigudu S, Tillmann T. Framing the tax and health nexus: a neglected aspect of public health concern. Health Econ Policy Law 2017 Apr;12(2):179-194.

Drug industry launches TV ads lambasting Cuomo’s pricing plan

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has begun running television ads in New York criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed new state controls over drug prices, reports the Wall Street Journal.  Airing in several upstate counties, the ads describe Cuomo’s proposal and similar legislation put forth by the New York State Assembly’s Democratic majority as a tax from “New York City politicians” that would raise out-of-pocket costs and weaken health care quality. “Tell your legislators to reject the tax on prescription drugs,” a narrator states in the ads. The ads are said to be partly intended to pressure Republicans, who run the state Senate, to keep the measure out of the budget. Cuomo’s office disputed that his plan would increase out-of-pocket costs or weaken the quality of care. His plan seeks to cap drug prices through a series of state measures. He proposed creating a price ceiling for drugs that are reimbursed under Medicaid, imposing a surcharge on companies that exceed state price recommendations, and tightening regulations on intermediary brokers who negotiate drug prices for insurance plans

Guns kill 40,000 Brazilians a year. Some lawmakers think more guns will make the country safer.

Brazil has a murder problem. It also has a gun problem. Both could get worse if some Brazilian lawmakers have their way, reports Public Radio International.  Most of the roughly 60,000 Brazilian citizens violently killed each year die from gunshot wounds. And the majority of the guns doing the killing were made in Brazil. The country is the fourth-largest firearms and ammunition manufacturer on the planet.  Now a small group of Brazilian lawmakers is on the verge of worsening the country’s homicide epidemic. Rather than tighten responsible firearms legislation, the so-called Bullet Caucus wants to make weapons even more accessible and untraceable. Their proposed legislation, Bill 3.722, would permit anyone over 21 to own up to six weapons with access to 100 rounds per firearm each year.

The ‘Job-Killing’ Fiction Behind Trump’s Retreat on Fuel Economy Standards

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When President Trump traveled to Michigan last week to announce that his administration will reevaluate (and almost certainly weaken) a key environmental achievement of the past decade — new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks — he alleged that “industry-killing regulations” had contributed to a loss of jobs in the U.S. automobile sector. The truth is, however, writes Yale Environment 360 that there is no factual basis for the claim that stricter standards have killed jobs. There is, however, abundant evidence that these regulations have saved Americans billions of dollars at the pump, bolstered U.S. energy independence, fostered automotive innovation, and led to major reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

New survey shows most UK food companies fail to meet salt reduction targets

With less than nine months to go for food manufacturers and retailers to meet the 2017 Salt Reduction Targets a new survey by Consensus Action on Salt and Health  based at Queen Mary University of London has found that, out of 28 food categories analyzed, only ‘bread rolls’ has so far met the 2017 maximum, but not the average, salt target . The product survey compared two shopping baskets each containing similar everyday food items, but with different amounts of salt. The difference in salt content between the ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ baskets of products was a staggering 57g of salt.

Tracking the Effects of Corporate Practices on Health