("Quid coniuratio est?")
SCIENTIFIC RESULTS TAINTED
By Maureen Salaman
(President, National Health Federation, PO Box 688, Monrovia, California 91016)
[From The Spotlight "Health & Fitness Supplement", 12/26/94]
If "He who pays the piper calls the tune" is true, then watch out when the government is the paymaster and scientists are the pipers.
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According to a recent survey, scientists believe that government- sponsored research is often skewed to "meet pre-established standards." Six of 10 scientists expressed "definite concern over the way various levels of government use scientific research in determining public policy," according to a survey sponsored by the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition of Washington. (See The Spotlight, Oct. 31.)
If the survey results don't worry you, they should, particularly if you are an advocate of freedom of choice in matters of health. The government is establishing and implementing policies on health based on suspect research.
Why do such a thing? To make you and me think that an honest scientific effort was put forth to uncover hidden answers to important problems that concern us. Unfortunately, it isn't only governmental officials and agencies who dictate study results.
This is why we must look through the research results with an X- ray eye to the agency, foundation or company sponsoring the research to see how it could benefit from rigged findings.
-+- Special Interest Pressure -+-
Beyond government bureaus, private foundations and companies which sponsor research are special interest groups which exert pressure on legislators. These vested interests -- the mammoth prescription drug cartel, for example -- have much to lose if unpatentable, low-cost, nutritional supplements slice into the vast market for pharmaceuticals, as tryptophan did in the market for tranquilizers.
You know what happened to tryptophan. After three years, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still "looking into the matter." The tryptophan that caused deaths and illness was proved to be from one company source and contaminated. That is an established fact. Medical doctors can prescribe tryptophan and it's helpful to patients, rather than harmful, but you can't buy it in health food stores. Obviously, physicians wave a magic wand over tryptophan.
Special interest groups not only pressure legislators directly, they do it indirectly through research-sponsoring government agencies and private foundations which dispense funding for research.
Funding is further controlled by committees called "peer review groups," which supposedly review research proposals objectively on their merit. "Supposedly" is the right word, because peer review groups usually make sure research is directed into familiar and, to them, acceptable channels so that no boat- rocking discoveries will be made.
Remember that the American Cancer Society (ACS) was founded in 1913 to be dissolved when a cure for cancer was discovered. How is it that the ACS and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with increasing funding, researchers and total personnel each year, are losing the war against cancer and we are being milked -- or is it bilked? -- to finance them through taxes and private donations?
-+- Out Of Step -+-
Why did two Nobel Prize winners -- the late Dr. Linus Pauling and Dr. Albert Szent Gyorgi -- face turndown after turndown on research proposal after research proposal, just because they were probing in areas that didn't meet the approval of peer review groups?
Then there is the case of Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner, a neurologist and biochemist at the University of California at San Francisco, who recently won the prestigious Albert Lasker Medical Research Award.
How prestigious? Over the past 47 years, 51 scientists who won this award later won the Nobel Prize for the same work.
This didn't come easily. Dr. Prusiner was humiliated for years because his findings were not mainstream, not consistent with current knowledge. Why? First, because he investigated an unpopular subject: a mysterious disease that killed sheep in England, and New Guinea natives, cannibals who ate the brains of their enemies.
Second, his findings were offbeat. The cause of death which he discovered defied conventional wisdom. It was a protein particle which he claimed reproduced without genes. This not only shocked his peers, it lost him a foundation grant.
That's the penalty for scientific heresy -- for daring to discover something new and having the stainless steel backbone to announce it. Conventional scientific "wisdom" claimed that this disease was caused by an unknown virus that took years to incubate and become a killer.
Prusiner said, "no." Twenty years of painstaking investigation led him to discover that it was a protein far too small to contain sufficient DNA to form a gene. As he proved, this protein could infect animals and human beings, was inheritable and could reproduce itself.
What started out as research of an obscure disease now may have some relevancy to killers such as Alzheimers disease, Parkinson's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease, which he and his associates are investigating.
John Stuart Mills said: "All new ideas have always come from the realm of the unorthodox. If all you are going to accept is what is already proven, then there is no new discovery. To the extent that a society stifles the unorthodox, that society will atrophy and die."
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