Statins for lowering cholesterol equal big money–and conflict of interest for bioscientists

Businesses aren’t the only ones whose ethics are up for review these days. Conflict of interest is an increasing phenomenon in bioscience because so much private money is funding research at universities–two-thirds of it in fact. Twenty years ago, one-third of research was funded privately. And now the guidelines for what constitutes “good” levels of cholesterol are being revised lower–meaning more people “need” medicine.

How do scientists avoid this? It’s the same as in business–the higher your rank, the more you tend to hang out with those who want to leverage your power to help them get what they want–in this case, a pharmaceutical company’s cholesterol-lowering drugs sold to ever more citizens.

Power and position have always been the great temptations in our world. Even the most ethical people sometimes compromise in the interests of substantial personal gain. In the bioscience “game,” the challenge to avoid this is even more important–for it’s people’s lives that are the chips with which we gamble.