Regulatory Capture of Science:
Unless you reside under a rock, you know that industry influences governments, regulatory bodies and ultimately health-related policies that affect all of us. And if you have a basic understanding of human nature and the goals of industry, you can safely assume that their influence is biased towards profit overall. If you live under a rock and have a different view of the world, well God bless you.
I never heard the specific words “regulatory capture of science” as much as I have in the last two years. I heard them quite a bit after the FDA’s controversial approval of Aducanumab, an Alzheimer’s Drug. The FDA is the regulator and gatekeeper of what drugs get approved for use in the US. Many felt there wasn’t enough evidence to approve the drug. It was an approval, that according to an article in Nature, “confounded the research community.” I don’t know, but perhaps it confounded the research community because they aren’t aware of the regulatory capture of science as much as they should be.
Industry’s influence on health and health policy is one of my “focus points” for my Causes or Cures health podcast for 2022. I wanted to explore how wide and deep its influence went, and with each expert guest that comes on my podcast, I’m learning of more and more ways. Their influence is both direct and indirect and really quite massive. While most people have a general sense of this influence, I wanted to get into the details. There is well-documented. dwindling public trust in regulators, science, scientific policies and traditional health experts. My hypothesis is that unless we whole-heartedly address industry’s influence and ensure that policies are not biased towards profit over people’s health, the public’s trust will not be restored. And then “science” and “experts” become whimsical terms at best as both morph into the Wild, Wild West.
The discussion of the regulatory capture of science is part of industry’s influence on health and health policy. In Episode 97 of Causes or Cures, I chatted with Dr. Andrea Saltelli about his recent study on regulatory capture titled: Science, the Endless Frontier of Regulatory Capture.
He will discuss what regulatory capture is, what cultural capture is, what an epistemic ladder of corruption is and how all of these things impact science, influence policy and ultimately, all of us. He will use specific case studies to highlight elements of regulatory capture in science that make it easier to understand. He will also discuss ways to make regulatory capture less of an issue for science and subsequent policies. But to make those changes, the public needs to be made aware of regulatory capture and the extent of industry’s influence.
Who is Dr. Saltelli?
Dr. Saltelli has done a lot of research on physical chemistry, environmental science and applied statistics. His main area of focus is sensitivity analysis of model output, where statistical tools are used to interpret outputs from mathematical and computational models, and sensitivity auditing, an extension of sensitivity analysis applied to the entire evidence-generating process from a policy context. Till 2015, he worked at the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, leading a team devoted to econometrics and applied statistics. Between 2016-2020, he was associate professor at the Center for the Study of the Sciences of Humanity at the University of Bergen. His recent work includes the reproducibility of scientific results, principles of modeling & the ethics of quantification.
Please tune in to the episode here. And I hope you stick around, subscribe and share it.
Other podcasts related to industry’s influence on health policy that you can listen to:
Princeton economist Dr. Janet Currie did a wonderful job explaining why economic distress did not cause the opioid epidemic (a factor often cited) but pharmaceutical marketing and manic prescription writing did. Learn more here.
Epistemic corruption is mentioned in this podcast on the regulatory capture of science. Dr. Sismondo came on Causes or Cures and dove deeper into this issue. I think it’s another important topic for you to understand to fully grasp industry’s influence. You can learn more here.
Thanks for all your support with the podcast. If you have feedback or questions, let me know through the contact form here. Best, Eeks.