CANADA: Scientists protest Pfizer boss on research panel

Opposition continues to mount against the Canadian government's appointment of a top pharmaceutical executive to the council governing the country's largest health-research agency, writes Margaret Munro for The Gazette. More than 3,700 people, including several prominent ethicists and researchers, have signed a petition calling for the withdrawal of the appointment of Dr Bernard Prigent, vice-president and medical director of Pfizer Canada, to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

One of the most vocal critics is Steven Lewis, a Saskatchewan health researcher and former member of the council, which has a $1-billion-a-year budget and funds the work of thousands of researchers across Canada. Lewis noted in a recent essay that the pharmaceutical industry has engaged in "countless systematic transgressions" against scientific integrity and honest marketing over the last decade.

Lewis questioned how Prigent would respond if the council were asked to support research showing a Pfizer drug is dangerous or identifies the massive public subsidies that flow to drug companies. As a member of the governing council, he said Prigent will have access to information that his competitors do not and "can exert a steering effect where they cannot". But Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said she saw no conflict of interest in appointing Prigent to the council, and is not reconsidering the decision.
Full report on The Gazette site