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The Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer "List"

Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer write for Slate and bemoan that Peter Pitts, a former FDA official, and head of Center for Medicine for the Public Interest, was able to speak on a program broadcast on many NPR affiliates that failed to mention his ties to industry. Brownlee and Lenzer identify nothing that Pitts said that was scientifically inaccurate; they just object to the fact that CMPI receives funding from pharmaceutical companies. (In contrast, they lionize the Center for Science in the Public Interest, though CSPI apparently colluded with the plaintiffs' bar in support of bogus lawsuits.)

Brownlee and Lenzer write:

In hopes of making reporters' jobs a little easier, we've created for journalists an international list of prestigious and independent medical experts who declare they have no financial ties to drug and device manufacturers for at least the past five years. We have nearly 100 experts from a wide array of disciplines. E-mail us at Brownlee.Lenzer@gmail.com, and we'll be happy to name names.

Of course, financial ties from "drug and device manufacturers" are not the only source of potential conflicts of interest; many "medical experts" who take no money from drug and device manufacturers are instead receiving substantial money manufacturing quack expert testimony for the plaintiffs' bar falsely condemning pharmaceutical companies for profit. I took Brownlee and Lenzer up on their public offer to share the list and asked to see it, because I thought it would be interesting to see how many of their "nearly 100" could be cross-referenced against testifying experts for plaintiffs, but Brownlee and Lenzner refused to submit the list to independent scrutiny because I work for AEI. Students of game theory know what the refusal to disclose to skeptical sources indicates about the quality of the hidden information; the refusal tells you you can safely assume the worst about the list.

Read all the way to the bottom of the Slate piece for an amusing exchange between Bill Lichtenstein (who reveals that Lenzer only blasted his program on Slate after he refused to profile them on air) and Lenzer complaining that Lichtenstein dared to mention the scandal that forced BMJ to retract a Lenzer hit piece on Eli Lilly at the same time she makes ad hominem attacks on Peter Pitts and Trevor Butterworth without addressing the substance of their comments. To wit, Butterworth notes:

Lenzer, a former physician's assistant turned freelance writer, appears to be of the "industry money corrupts" school of medical reporting. This has its place, but only if an accusation of vested interests can be shown in faulty research methodology and poor statistical methods, or that the drug is pointless or has a greater risk profile than similar drugs without any greater benefit. Otherwise, it's a way of reporting whose bias is at least as bad as the bias it purports to expose precisely because it's unscientific in method; it insinuates corruption without demonstrating it in the data.

Lenzer's bias is evident in her attack on Butterworth. And, speaking of bias, we somehow doubt that Lenzer will ever have the problem that she will write an article that BMJ has to retract in its entirety and apologize for because it was mistakenly too favorable to industry.

Since Brownlee and Lenzer will point this out if they respond at all, my employer, AEI, receives a small portion of its annual budget from pharmaceutical companies. I have previously performed legal work or consulting work for pharmaceutical companies. None of this has previously prevented me from taking public-policy positions opposed by the pharmaceutical industry. Neither AEI nor any of its donors has dictated or sought to dictate the conclusions of any of my work.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.