Since the reality is that lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry no doubt have great input into govt. funding decisions I guess that the government thought that no one would question the appointment of a pharmaceutical executive officer to the funding board itself. The conflict of interest is obvious but then perhaps what is good for the pharmaceutical industry must be good for Canada. After all don't we want more research here and wont all that investment create more jobs etc. etc. etc. as the mantra goes. This is from the CBC.
Appointment of Pfizer exec to health funding body criticized
Last Updated: Friday, November 27, 2009 5:32 PM ET Comments88Recommend52Anna Sharratt, CBC News
Prominent bioethicists have expressed alarm at the recent appointment of a senior pharmaceutical executive to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the government's funding arm for medical research.
They hope to have their concerns about the three-year appointment of Dr. Bernard Prigent, vice-president and medical director of Pfizer Canada, to the governing council of the CIHR addressed at a parliamentary meeting Monday.
That's when the House of Commons standing committee on health will meet to discuss Prigent's appointment, which was announced on Oct. 5.
The issue was brought to the attention of the committee by NDP health critic Judy Wasylecia-Leis, who raised it in question period.
"Dr. Prigent brings extensive pharmaceutical research industry experience to CIHR's governing council," Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a news release announcing Prigent's appointment.
"His understanding of research and development partnerships will be a valuable asset."
The publicly funded CIHR gives grants to researcher across the country working in various fields of health and medicine. Its governing council consists mainly of scientists, medical practitioners and health administrators drawn from Canadian universities.
Wasylecia-Leis told CBC News Friday that she has been granted seven minutes on Monday to discuss what she sees as a serious conflict of interest.
"He's the VP of the largest drug company in the world, and he says he'll keep that separate. How effective will that be?" she said.
"We are troubled by it," says Matthew Herder, a research fellow at New York University and soon-to-be assistant professor at Dalhousie University's bioethics department in Halifax.
"The appointment of a prominent corporate executive to Canada's flagship health research funding agency risks sending a disturbing message to Canadians," Herder wrote recently in a letter to the president of the CIHR, Alain Beaudet.
Jocelyn Downie, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at Dalhousie, concurs.
"My primary concern is that a senior executive from a pharmaceutical company has been given a seat at the highest governance table for the national health research funding agency," she said in an email.
"This person is in an intractable conflict of interest — on the one hand, he has an obligation to serve the shareholders of his company (as an executive at Pfizer), and on the other hand he would have an obligation to serve the public interest (as a member of the CIHR governing council).
"Given the divergence of interests between the shareholders and the public, he cannot serve these two masters."
Herder, Downie and Françoise Baylis, Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy at Dalhousie, drafted a petition opposing the appointment on Wednesday. As of Friday, it had 1,320 signatures.
Wasylecia-Leis says she will present the petition to the committee and to the House of Commons, but she's worried that the committee is stacked against her. The chair of the committee has turned down her request to present witnesses who can authoritatively discuss the issues Prigent's appointment raises, she said.
But she's hopeful Monday's meeting will focus attention on the issue of "people with connections to industry sitting on committee that decides where the money goes."
"We need to ask questions about our research bodies," said Wasylecia-Leis. "To be silent would condone the process."
CIHR spokesperson David Coulombe said he was not in a position to comment.