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With alcohol, less is generally more

Written by Diane Archer

It’s hard to know who to believe any more. When it comes to health care research, industry is almost always in the pocket of the researchers. Roni Caryn Rabin reports for the New York Times on an alcohol study that was pulled because the researchers were working with industry and not looking at the health risks.

Before explaining, if you’re interested in good, seemingly untainted, alcohol research, click here. We write about a study showing that more than five drinks a week can affect longevity.  And, for the record, alcohol is classified as a carcinogen.

In the study that was pulled because of conflicts of interest, a Harvard scientist, Kenneth J. Mukamal, and his team, some of them working at the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, were working closely with executives in the beer and liquor industry to design a trial that would not capture the negative health effects of alcohol consumption. While Mukamal is unapologetic about the tainted nature of his team’s work, the NIH determined that he was meeting the desires of these executives in order to secure nearly $100 million in support for the 10-year trial from them.

Mukamal’s team was aiming to show the heart benefits of an alcoholic drink a day and not the negative health effects. It was also not collecting data to show the dangers of heart failure or cancer from  moderate drinking.

Worse still, Mukamal’s team appeared to be hiding from the NIH its collaboration with alcohol industry executives, including the industry’s likely funding of the trial. The team’s primary goal was to collect the industry money and do the trial to show results at odds with a World Health Organization finding that drinking beer and liquor always raises the risk of cancer.

Industry influence on the design of clinical trials appears all too common. The pharmaceutical industry has a big hand in drug trials, a likely reason that one in three recently FDA-approved drugs have safety risks.

Here’s more from Just Care:

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