Tuesday, June 19 update: Maybe you saw this coming: The National Institutes Of Health director Dr. Francis Collins has shut down the in-progress study of alcohol’s benefits following reports of the extensive ties between the study and the alcohol industry. The New York Times reports an NIH advisory panel recommended the study cease completely, and director Collins agreed. One of the major areas of concern was that alcohol makers offered input into the design of the trial.
A decade-long study of the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on health is currently progressing under the direction of the National Institutes Of Health—backed by big funding from alcohol makers including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and Carlsberg. The New York Times investigated the connection and found that scientists and N.I.H. staff pitched the study in a presentation to the booze makers as “a unique opportunity to show that moderate alcohol consumption is safe and lowers risk of common diseases.”
Obviously, this has raised questions about the objectivity of the study and whether the funding violates N.I.H. policy. The New York Times obtained emails and travel vouchers under a Freedom of Information Act request and conducted interviews with former federal employees that contradict N.I.H. officials’ previous statements that they’d never discussed the study’s plans with the alcohol industry.
“The documents and interviews show that the institute waged a vigorous campaign to court the alcohol industry, paying for scientists to travel to meetings with executives, where they gave talks strongly suggesting that the study’s results would endorse moderate drinking as healthy,” The New York Times reports.
If you’re as surprised as I was to learn that industry groups can essentially fund government research on their own industries via a private foundation, read more about how the N.I.H. study’s funding works in the full New York Times piece.