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McDougall, collateral damage and conflict of interest

Posted May 07 2010 9:38am

"...discussion of conflict of interest is not new to [Open Medicine]. One variation on the theme concerned the appointment of a pharmaceutical industry executive to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. ....a similar controversy erupted recently with respect to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) ...[and that] the chair of the board of governors had an affiliation with the tobacco industry. IDRC, a Crown agency, funds tobacco control programs among many other initiatives. Their board chair, former Cabinet minister Barbara McDougall, had been on the board of directors of Imperial Tobacco Canada since March 2004 and had chaired its corporate social responsibility committee. This was not declared in the IDRC’s announcement of McDougall’s appointment to their board in January 2007, or when she became board chair in December of that year.

The inappropriateness of serving on these two boards simultaneously is self-evident. But what can get lost in the furore of conflict-of-interest allegations is an informed understanding of the collateral damage caused by such conflicts. What has also been missed to some extent is an understanding of how this particular case exemplifies the insidious challenges faced these days by the tobacco control community."

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