The results of research that suggested statins are safe and effective are being given extensive coverage today in the print and broadcast media http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37306736
And Professor Rory Collins from the Clinical Trial Service Unit at the University of Oxford was quoted and interviewed about the research.
Now it is not for me to even dip a toe into the debate on the relative merits of the different piece of research into the subject. I have no medical knowledge and no close contacts with anyone using the drug.
But I am always interested in the lead figures in any inquiry and what their external links may be – particularly where opinion is still ferociously divided.
And in the last year or so i have written about the links that academics have with outside commercial organisations. Here are a couple of examples.
Academics will always insist that they preserve academic integrity and supporters of the sponsors will complain that sceptics should address the message rather than the funding of the messenger.
It is not for me to judge this.
But I also think it is wise to dig deeper and ask about the interests of all those responsible for major research. Then at least we are informed about the external interests of the leading protagonists.
So it is worth googling in “Sir Rory Collins drug industry links.”
The results are interesting. Some clearly distrust Sir Rory because he runs a unit called the Clinical Trials Service Unit at Oxford, which has received nearly £300m ($500m) in funding from pharmaceutical companies over the years.
But Sir Rory’s supporters defend his economic independence and say that he is not directly funded by the industry.
As I say I don’t have expertise to enter this debate at any level.
All I would say is that it is yet more evidence of the need to look behind the headlines when important “independent” research is published.
It is then up to us to decide whether their outside interests harm their freedom of thought to the extent that we question the credibility of their findings.
Above all we need to remain sceptical.