Who's Minding the Drug Store?

But remember, we don't actually sell our products.

Richard Gallagher(rgallagher@the-scientist.com)
Jan 16, 2005

But remember, we don't actually sell our products. All of the resources we put into "sales and marketing" is really to make sure that physicians and patients are fully aware of all the information around the risks and benefits of the medicines we are offering. And then we leave it to the doctor and the patient to decide what is the best option for them.

– Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnell, interviewed by CNN's Aaron Brown, Dec. 20, 2004

How will the public remember science in the early 21st century? If 2004 was any guide, science may be recalled as a field in which principles were overtaken by filthy lucre.

It became even more fashionable than ever in 2004 to slam pharmaceutical companies at every turn for allowing the lure of profits to influence how they conducted research and interpreted data. To name a few episodes: the prolonged reexamination of the...

Meet This Issue's Writers

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Richard A. Cherwitz says he became a professor because he believed "that academe was one of the few environments in which change is governed by the rigor of ideas rather than political whim." But he soon found that universities are quite resistant to change. That's led him to urge his colleagues to step out of the seclusion of their ivory towers and become engaged in society – a project he discusses in this issue's Opinion (p. 10).

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When he's not studying "The Magnificent Seven," the seven-helical G protein-coupled receptors (see p. 22), Thomas P. Sakmar focuses on his wonderful three: his 2-year-old twin daughters Charlotte and Juliette, and son William, age 6 months. Contemporary novels, histories, and historical biographies, he says, have given way to "board books" such as The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon.

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Edward R. Burns learned about intellectual property the hard way when, as he puts it, he "fell victim to the naiveté of the young, foolish and eager" some 20 years ago. Having invented a medical device, but not yet patented it, he contacted a company to gauge their interest. "The design was taken, commercialized and made highly successful with neither my university nor I being able to live on the easy street of royalties." Read how he's profited from that experience on page 41.

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Karen Hopkin, who contributes regularly to Scientific American, writes about Yuri Lazebnik (p. 52) in this issue. She first met Labeznik while writing a review of the Cold Spring Harbor cafeteria for the Annals of Improbable Research. Lazebnik professed a fondness for the desserts, which he noted could vary in size by two standard deviations but have since reverted to the mean.