We told you yesterday that the food cops at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) will soon host their second "Integrity in Science" conference to decry business funding of science. But CSPI's big secret is that its efforts to exaggerate obesity — as well as its favored responses like "fat taxes" and obesity lawsuits — directly rely on the very same scientists profiled in its "Integrity in Science" online database. These scientists are funded by pharmaceutical companies trying to increase the demand for their anti-obesity drugs, by (like CSPI) hyping the obesity problem. CSPI loves to claim that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese — there's even a handy little chart on CSPI's website. Ironically, the man most responsible for that dubious figure, Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, has been publicly singled out for ties to the pharmaceutical industry — by CSPI! Pi-Sunyer chaired a key National Institutes of Health obesity panel, which in 1998 changed the definition of "overweight," instantly casting 30 million Americans into that category. Here are just a few facts, courtesy of CSPI, about the man who made America seem bigger:
Advisory boards of American Home Products' Wyeth-Ayerst labs and Knoll Pharmaceuticals; consultant to Lilly Pharmaceuticals, Genentech, Hoffman-LaRoche, Knoll, Weight-Watchers International, and Neurogen; on Knoll Pharmaceutical's Weight Risk Investigation Study Council (provides research grants).
And that's just the beginning. Remember when CSPI director Michael Jacobson said that fighting obesity was "going to take a whole lot of lawsuits"? Presumably Aviva Must of Tufts University agrees, because she was a speaker (along with Jacobson) at a 2003 conference "intended to encourage and support litigation against the food industry." According to CSPI, Must's obesity research has been funded by Roche Laboratories and the Weight Watchers Foundation. CSPI also isn't shy about using a deeply flawed study that concluded obesity costs the U.S. economy $117 billion per year. Graham Colditz, co-author of the study, pops up on CSPI's website because he has also accepted obesity research funding from Roche Laboratories. JoAnne Manson serves on CSPI's scientific advisory board. She regularly co-authors papers with titles such as "The Escalating Pandemics of Obesity and Sedentary Lifestyle." But she makes CSPI's "Integrity in Science" who's-been-naughty list for having been a paid consultant to the maker of the obesity drug Redux. When it comes to obesity hype, a hefty portion eminates from Richard Atkinson and Judith Stern, co-founders of the American Obesity Association (AOA). The principal mission of the AOA is to push for "reimbursement for obesity treatment and prevention." Along the way, AOA fattens obesity fears at every opportunity. Discussing the father of the fat tax, Stern declared: "maybe Kelly Brownell is right. Maybe we have to differentially price things." Sounds like the AOA is right up CSPI's food-cop alley, right? But take a gander at Stern's bloated resume on CSPI's website. She has "received honoraria from Knoll Pharmaceuticals and Wyeth-Ayerst" and "is on the scientific advisory board of Weight Watchers International." Atkinson, meanwhile, has an even larger body of supporters trying to hype obesity fears and drive up drug sales:
Consultant to … Boots Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge Plan International, Eli Lilly, Gates Pharmaceuticals, Glaxo, Glaxo-Wellcome, Interneuron, Just Help Yourself, Knoll Pharmaceutical, Lederle, Pfizer, Ross Laboratories, Slim Fast, Thompson Medical, Wyeth-Ayerst. Industry – sponsored lecturer: Boots Pharmaceuticals, Hoffman-LaRoche, Interneuron, Knoll Pharmaceuticals, Ross Laboratories, Slim Fast, Wyeth Ayerst. Research Support: AH Robins, Cambridge Plan International, DuPont Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, Gates Pharmaceuticals, Mead Johnson, Natural Nutrition, Thompson Medical, Weight Watchers Foundation, Natural Nutrition.
Perhaps the most glaring example of CSPI's reliance on research that it might otherwise call "conflicted" is its habit of repeating the myth that obesity kills 300,000 people a year. That bogus figure originates from one scientist who's flush with pharmaceutical money. Search for David Allison on CSPI's "Integrity in Science" website, and you will find more than 20 cases of industry funding. According to CSPI, Allison has been:
Consultant to Millennium Pharmaceuticals on the role of genetic influences on obesity;
Consultant to Amgen on the clinical study of leptin as an anti-obesity therapeutic;
Consultant to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals on issues related to the treatment of human obesity;
Consultant to Wilentz, Goldman, & Spitzer, Attorneys at Law regarding OTC weight-loss product claims litigation, 1999;
Consultant to Decision Resources on the pharmacological treatment of obesity;
Consultant to Fisons Corporation and Mediva Pharmaceuticals regarding anti-obesity drug litigation;
Consultant to Spadoro & Hilson, Attorneys at Law regarding actuarial lifetable estimation for obese decedents;
Study on hydroxycitric acid and weight-loss funded in part by Thompson Medical Company;
Consultant to McKenna & Cuneo, L.L.P., Attorneys at Law regarding anti-obesity drug litigation;
Consultant to Knoll Pharmaceuticals on the pharmacological treatment of obesity;
Consultant to Research Testing Laboratories, Inc., regarding clinical trial of a weight-loss preparation for Slim America;
Consultant to Corning HTA (for a project sponsored by Wyeth Ayerst) regarding the economic benefits of obesity treatment; and
Consultant to Glaxo Pharmaceuticals regarding the pharmacological treatment of obesity
Allison's own study concluding that obesity caused 300,000 deaths each year noted that he's "received grants, honoraria, monetary and product donations, was a consultant to, and has contracts or other commitments with numerous organizations involving weight control products and services."