Of Harvard's 8,900 professors and lecturers, 1,600 admit that either they or a family member have had some kind of business link to drug companies — sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — that could bias their teaching or research. Additionally, pharma contributed more than $11.5 million to the school last year for research and continuing-education classes. The Times covered these details in its stories and included the darning fact that during the November demonstration, a Pfizer employee was on campus photographing protesters with a cell-phone camera. Pfizer did not deny the account but contended that the employee did nothing wrong. (See the top 10 scandals of 2008.)
$11.5 million per year may sound a lot to a layperson, but it is nowhere near enough money to sway the research goals of an entire institution. My university received more than 20 times this amount in research grants from the NIH this year, as did pretty much all of the major centers for biomedical research in the United States.
I do not deny that there are doctors who accept money from pharmaceutical companies and that it is enough to distort incentives and sometimes lead to suboptimal care (e.g. prescribing a drug too often), but there simply isn't enough money flowing out of pharmaceutical companies and into the major research universities to stifle the discovery of a novel cure.A few things:
1) The NIH invests 30 billion yearly in medical research. The majority of the funding to the universities is is the form of competitive grants, which involve the faculty writing up a detailed proposal for the field the researchers want to investigate. This is a time consuming process that can be frustrating. It's very probable that "novel" IBD therapies have been explored more than a few times. This has been going on for some time, and there have yet to be any significant breakthroughs for IBD that have reached the patient setting in the past decade. I want to emphasize that going from theory to application is a bridge that rarely gets crossed, and one can even argue that an immense amount of money gets wasted on ad-hoc theories. I have no doubt they are doing the best they can, but the focus needs to be shifted on the microbiome immediately, as FMTs are arguably the most promising treatment for not just UC, but a variety of other autoimmune conditions at the moment.
2) It's not just universities that gets grants from pharmaceutical companies, but also organizations like the CCFA. If you go through the CCFA website, it's clear what their goals are in terms of treatment options, and it hasn't changed very much in the past decade. Every treatment plan converges on the same 4 standard medication classes. The race for cure and donation events are a spit in the face to every IBD patient grasping for hope.
3) It will be a couple decades before a novel treatment emerges. This is good because everyone has their own unique pathology, and experimentation is vital for everyone. There are users here who have resolved their pathology (stealth pathogen, food allergy, missing microbe, etc) and no longer post here. The pro-med crowd here is also the most outspoken and hostile, and we rarely get to see the opposite perspective. For a treatment to be successful, it has to be highly individualized. It won't work any other way. Integrative practice does this right to some degree, but it has its share of issues.