Former New England Journal of Medicine editor Jerome Kassirer, in a recent Washington Post op-ed, argues that conflicts of interest in medical science are so pervasive today that the new National Institutes of Health (NIH) cholesterol guidelines are somehow tainted—not because the guidelines are themselves wrong, but because of their authors. Resorting to an ad hominem argument of the worst kind, he goes on to preach his vision of scientific correctness.
Some members of NIH’s National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), which wrote the guidelines, have in the past received research grants, consulting fees, and speaking honoraria form drug manufacturers. According to Dr. Kassirer, this alone should bring their advice into disrepute.
Kassirer’s central point boils down to: You can’t trust anyone who has ever been associated with a profit-making venture; therefore, such tainted souls should be banned forever from public advisory roles. Kassirer’s vision of turning the virtues of capitalism into vices is a recipe for disaster, for public health and science.