Was a recent vape study connected to big pharma?
Many think it was, and here’s why
You can find the study in-question here. Basically, the story here begins with this study, which was later referenced in a blog post by outspoken E-cig critic Stanton Glantz. As it turns out, many people believe that the study was designed with hopelessly flawed methodology, but not by accident.
In fact, many people are calling foul-play, and saying that the study was designed that way due to the financial and ideological influence of big pharma. Now, we’re going to take a closer look at the story and give you a general overview of the details – along with our opinion of what it all means.
So this study was conducted by Laurie Zawertailo and several colleagues, and followed 6,526 Canadians, all of which were recruited through primary care clinics across Ontario, Canada. Here’s a quote from the Implications section of the study abstract, which basically outlines what the results of the study were said to mean…
“The implications of these findings are that concurrent use of e-cigarettes during a quit attempt utilizing cost-free evidence-based treatment (nicotine replacement therapy plus behavioural counselling) does not confer any added benefit and may hamper successful quitting.”
Basically, this study is claiming that E-cig use actually reduces the likelihood that a smoker will actually be able to quit smoking – which is contrary to the entire reason behind them. If this were true, it would obviously add to evidence that seems to undermine the usefulness of vaping as an alternative and potential smoking cessation device – but many people are calling foul, and claim that the study used flawed methodology.
So, what’s the deal with this study?
Dr. Michael Siegel, of Boston University, addressed the confusion regarding this study in a blog post that was published not long after the results of the study were released. The title of the blog post was as follows…
“More Shoddy Research on E-Cigarettes by Big Pharma-Funded Scientists”
As you can see, Dr. Siegel minces no words about his take on the alleged study – and he wrote down his thoughts in a blog post, which helps to clarify exactly what seemed to have been transpiring with this study.
“The major flaw in this study is that it is very likely that the smokers who were dual users became dual users because they were unable to quit smoking,” he writes.
The study didn’t give E-cigs to participants and then track the results of their usage. Rather, according to Dr. Siegel, dual users were already dual users when they signed up for the study.
“Had they been successful in quitting smoking, they would not have become dual users (and thus their success would not have been observed in the study). This means that what the study is really comparing is smoking cessation rates among smokers who have failed to quit versus those who have not necessarily failed to quit. It would be shocking if the study did not find higher quit rates among the non-dual users.”
But maybe the strangest part of all of this comes from the links between big pharma and those who conducted the study. This is where people are really starting to cry foul, because it makes it look like the study was conducted this way specifically so that E-cigs wouldn’t look as good as other cessation methods – which is, in itself, a position that supports big pharma, because E-cigs stand to take away from the smoking cessation market and, in doing so, their profit margins.
In his blog post, Dr. Siegel outlines his main reasons for why the study’s methodology is flawed – but the links between big pharma and the researchers are also spelled out.
Information! Apparently, both the senior author and the lead author of the study disclosed that they had received funding from Pfizer. The Senior Author also disclosed that honoraria and consulting fees had been received from NABI Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer.
These would spell out fairly significant conflicts of interest, because all of these companies are either marketing or developing smoking cessation products. Therefore, they would all stand to lose-out on profits if E-cigs become more popular.
But there’s more. The Senior Author’s Tobacco Research Unit biography includes a pretty broad list of pharmaceutical connections. Of course, it’s impossible to tell exactly why the study was carried out like this. Is it because Big Pharma really wanted particular results, or was it because the researchers themselves have an opinion and were seeking to reinforce it?
Or, is it possible that something else is to blame? Was it possible that the study was laid out this way by accident, or because the researchers failed to see how their methodology would have invariably skewed the results away from allowing E-cigs a fair shot at apparent cessation usefulness?
Regardless of how or why, it certainly seems like this study has some problems and holes in it – which is a shame. It really seems like E-cigs simply weren’t allowed to look good, due to the decisions that were made in how the study was to be conducted. The whole thing certainly does look dirty, and it really makes it look like the researchers were attempting to advance big pharma interests in a way that would help to ensure them better profits in the future – but of course, none of this can be said with absolute certainty.