Paul Basken reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education that major medical journals, whose financial viability often depends heavily upon industry support, are faced with an “inherent conflict of interest” when it comes to filtering possible industry bias from their articles.
Basken’s report relies on an analysis of industry-funded studies presented at the International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication in Vancouver. Once the Journal of the American Medical Association introduced an independent verification requirement for industry-funded studies in 2005, Basken reported, it “saw the percentage of industry-supported studies in its pages drop 21 percent, from more than 60 percent of its published trials to 47 percent. Lancet, however, saw a growth of 17 percent, and The New England Journal of Medicine had an increase of 11 percent, the group reported.”
The journal Lancet tackled the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a recent issue, assessing the heavyweight’s grants and spending. The study seeks to chronicle the foundation’s grants from 1998 to 2007 (a time period in which it handed out almost $9 billion), and the accompanying editorial provides a clear-eyed, critical review of the foundation’s work, transparency and priorities.
Some of the more striking numbers from a report full of them:
- The $1.2 billion spent by the foundation in 2007 on global health alone rivaled the World Health Organization’s entire annual budget (some of which is, not coincidentally, itself provided by the Gates foundation).
- Three quarters of global health funding went to “HIV/AIDS, malaria, vaccine-preventable diseases, child health,
tuberculosis, and other tropical diseases and neglected
- The 1094 grants issued from 1998 to 2007 ranged from $3,500 to $750 billion.
- Twenty organizations shared 65 percent of the foundation’s global health funding.
- As a whole, NGOs and nonprofits got $3.3 billion while Universities got $1.8 billion. The rest went to other organizations and governments.
- Administrative expenses totaled $264 million in 2007.
The report also breaks down Gates funding by geography:
In terms of the geographical location of primary recipients, $3·62 billion (40%) of all funding was awarded to supranational organisations such as global health partnerships and intergovernmental organisations. Of the remaining amount, 82% ($4·39 billion) went to recipients based in the USA, 13% ($0·70 billion) to recipients in Europe and other high-income countries (eg, Australia), and 5% ($0·24 billion) to recipients in low-income and middle-income countries.
(Hat tip to Rahul Parikh, who provides a particularly useful breakdown of the numbers involved.)