I'm the underachiever in my family. My parents also produced Harvard Medical School research director Thomas Stossel. Mom called him the one who had “a real job.”
For years, my brother annoyed me by not embracing the libertarianism that changed my life. It bored him. He was comfortable in his Harvard cocoon.
But then he realized that the anti-capitalist activists who fight with me on my TV show are also the people who make life more difficult for doctors and for patients who want cures.
Lately, the anti-capitalists have become obsessed with “conflict of interest” in science — any trace of corporate money must poison honest medical research.
ObamaCare includes a rule called the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. It orders companies that make medical products to disclose even bagels they serve doctors and anything valued above $10. On my TV show, Tom calls that “the conflict of interest mania ... taking normal competition ... into a witch hunt.”
But doesn't corporate money tempt doctors to push inferior treatments and drugs?
“People cheat for money,” replied Tom. “But evidence that collaborations compromise clinical integrity and patient care is practically nonexistent. A voluminous 2009 Institute of Medicine report on ‘Conflict of Interest in Medical Research' was unable to find evidence of a negative effect on patient outcomes.”
How much good comes from corporate/research collaboration? I assumed that most new drugs and improved medical treatments come because of government-funded research. Tom's reply: “I've lived off government-funded research my whole life. I've panhandled off your tax money. It's important. But the vast predominance of what gets products to patients comes from the private sector.”
His epiphany came when he did work for the biotech company Biogen. Its board included Nobel Prize winners. One helped develop the hepatitis vaccine.
That probably wouldn't happen today, says Tom, because now the stock options the Nobel winner got are forbidden at research institutions like Harvard.
But without government regulation, what prevents greedy doctors and greedy medical device makers or drug companies from colluding?
Market competition. Other scientists will try to replicate dramatic findings and debunk false claims and sloppy scientists. Companies worry about scandal, lawsuits, the FDA and recalls. They can't get rich unless their reputation is good.
The scientific process doesn't work through activists swooping in and pretending to be the guardians of careful research. As Tom writes in a forthcoming book, “Science's credibility derives from its delivery of durable discoveries.” Similarly, sustained profits require products that actually work.
Markets do not automatically taint science. As with every other service the market provides, it is the anti-capitalist attitude that does more harm.
John Stossel is host of “Stossel” on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of “No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Crosby, Malkin dazzle fellow All-Stars
- Lure of tuition aid, gifts draw college students to ‘sugar daddy’ sites
- Woman killed in Washington Township crash
- Starkey: Rinaldo doesn’t belong in NHL
- Long-term solution for wastewater disposal eludes shale gas industry
- State’s no-bid contracts with private law firms prompt scrutiny
- Pitt women’s basketball team upends Boston College
- Tough times are in past for Pitt senior guard Kiesel
- HS highlight reel: Softball standouts make commitment to Marist
- Man shot inside his Penn Hills home
- Fleury’s relay team struggles in NHL skills competition