HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Pointing to evidence that HIV is not the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS

Conflicts of Interest in the Nobel Committee for Physiology and Medicine

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/12/12

Stefan R. sent the link to this item in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (“New Zurich News”), 11 December 2008, which I translate freely and somewhat fallibly from the German:

“Nobel Prize in dubious light: Connection between drug company and members of Nobel Committee

Personal connections exist between the Nobel Committee and a drug company. The Swedish government attorney responsible for ferreting out corruption is considering whether to begin formal investigation.

Byline: Ingrid Meissl Årebo, Stockholm

Last preparations are in full swing for the festive award of the Nobel Prizes next Wednesday afternoon and for the associated celebration “above all other celebrations”, the glamorous Nobel Banquet in Stockholm’s Town Hall. At the same time, Swedish Radio broadcast less splendid news: the chief attorney for the Agency against Corruption is enquiring whether to begin investigation of the Nobel Foundation.

According to Attorney-General Christer von der Kwast, connections between the drug company  Astra Zeneca  and individuals associated with the Nobel Foundation might offer grounds for criminal proceedings. The British-Swedish company holds patents for both vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV), which is capable of causing cervical cancer.

German virologist Harald zur Hausen was nominated for half of the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering HPV. This illustrious approbation could lead more countries to add HPV-vaccination to their routine vaccinations, and  Astra Zeneca would profit thereby.

In the pay of Astra Zeneca
This week, Swedish Radio (SR) reported that Astra Zeneca has been the chief sponsor of two of the Nobel Foundation’s subsidiaries, Nobel Media (which controls and markets media rights for the Foundation) and Nobel Webb (responsible for the website nobelprize.org). The content of the contract with the sponsor is secret. The drug company may provide the two subsidiaries with support to the tune of millions.

According to the revelations by SR, several individuals involved in the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine receive remuneration from Astra Zeneca: Bo Angelin, member of the Nobel Committee, sits on the board of Astra Zeneca. In addition,  Bertil Friedholm, representative of the  Nobel Committee at the Karolinska Institutet, held two consulting contracts with the drug company in 2006.

Angelin responded that he was not aware that Astra Zeneca could profit from the award to zur Hausen; he didn’t participate in the recommendation. The Secretary of the Nobel Committee, Hans Jörnwall, explained that Angelin’s connection to the drug firm was known and discussed. Now it may be necessary to clarify whether the right decision was made or whether future organizational changes might be called for.

Trips might be bribes
The Swedish Attorney-General will look into trips to China taken by  several members of Nobel Committees, where the expenses were paid by the hosts. The Department of Justice is looking into the possibility of bribery or attempted bribery. According to the Institute against Bribery, officials of the Nobel Foundation are obliged, under official Swedish ground rules, to cover those expense themselves.”

Clark Baker has already noted this situation on his blog.

6 Responses to “Conflicts of Interest in the Nobel Committee for Physiology and Medicine”

  1. Henry,

    I think, Angelin’s allegation that he was not aware, Astra Zeneca could profit from zur Hausen’s award, is a blatant lie. Those people are corrupt, but they are not naive.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Sabine:

      Yes indeed, Angelin’s claimed excuse is not to be believed. Also, the “explanation” by the Secretary of the Nobel Committee, that they discussed the situation and went ahead nevertheless, shows — like Angelin’s claim — that they do not understand what conflicts of interest are and what they mean. This has become standard, see my essay at http://www.chem.vt.edu/chem-ed/ethics/hbauer/hbauer-consequences.html — written 15 years ago, and nothing has changed for the better.

  2. Sadun Kal said

    I read your essay. It’s fascinating how easily people can accept these conflicts of interests as if there is nothing wrong with them. I’m afraid there is no solution for this very human problem and things will keep getting worse for a long time. The only fundamental solution I know requires that nobody has any interests which are in conflict with what their profession requires. And this either requires a change of the minds through some sort of education or change of the circumstances through creating extreme abundance of resources -so that everyone feels satisfied enough with what they have…or a mixture of both. But both are also very hard to achieve and won’t happen anytime soon. It’s worrying.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Sadun Kal:

      There are plenty of ways to reduce conflicts of interest, if the will exists to do so. In science, a big step would be to realize that one doesn’t need people actually working in a specific narrow field to be the ones who review grants, manuscripts, etc. There are plenty of teachers, for example, who understand a subject very well indeed but who are not themselves doing research in any given sub-specialty.

  3. Henry:

    Thanks for the link to your important essay. There you wrote:

    “Is it better to be fast than to be sound? Is it better to get false results quickly than valid results slowly?”

    Well, it all depends on the perspective.

    After researching (or at least doing what they call “research” these days) and rushing all kinds of poisons through FDA-approval (and similar institutions in Europe) with 250,000 miles an hour for some decades, after suppressing completely ALL other means of regaining health – especially the absolutely amazing self healing properties of the human body -, the population in general is sicker than ever before and we are facing the imminent collapse of the health systems, as well in the United States as in Europe. Many people, who happened to be on the “right” side, now happen to be no healthier than the rest, but a lot wealthier.

    Of course I agree with you: The end NEVER justifies the means.

    Sadun:

    To avoid conflicts of interests one simply has to understand, that it’s impossible to serve two masters at the same time. For example, either you serve your patients or you serve your sponsors and the like.

    Once upon a time there was a rule, which said: At least do no harm.

    Some decades ago they eradicated this rule and replaced it by some other rules. The second amendment of the Declaration of Geneva reads:

    “I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;”

    It does NOT read: I will give to my PATIENTS the respect and gratitude that is their due.

    Amendment #7 of this declaration reads:

    “My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;”

    It does NOT read: My PATIENTS will be my sisters and brothers.

    And once upon a very long time (presumably even before the creation of the universe) there was another amendment:

    “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”

    How does this part of the classical Hippocratic Oath match with the never ending list of potentially fatal side-effects of ARVs or with the STILL ONGOING prescription of Thalidomide? It doesn’t. So this ancient oath had to be eradicated.

    Thus, as a doctor you can either serve your patients or your sponsors/teachers. How in reality a doctor manages to serve his patients, although he HAS to take this oath to be allowed to practice as a doctor, I don’t know.

  4. Marcel said

    It’s clear from this link
    http://turtlemeat.com/invest/the-nobel-foundation-could-be-investing-in-weapons/65/
    that the Nobel foundation has investments, and won’t disclose them. Could they also have investments in the drug biz? Since it’s obvious that the Nobel Prize has become a propaganda weapon wielded in the interests of the Power Elite, whether it’s about Aids or Global Warming, it’s long past time someone thoroughly investigated where their money comes from.

    I believe some of their funding comes from the Swedish government, doesn’t it? Well, we all know that governments are run by politicians, and politicians get money from business in exchange for favors. Might this not be considered as money laundering of corporate funds to the Nobel Foundation through government intermediaries?

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