Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), signed a secret contract in 2006 to do research for Philip Morris Altria Group, the nation’s largest tobacco company. The VCU scientists were given money to study how to identify early warning signs of pulmonary disease, and how to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus drained into rivers from processing tobacco leaves. What is shocking is the extremely restrictive terms that the university must follow. Some were:
A. Professors are not allowed to publish the results of the studies with out tobacco company’s permission
B. Professors are not allowed to talk about the results without the tobacco companies permission
C. All patent and other intellectual property rights go to the tobacco company, not the university or its professors
D. The contract also includes a longer than usual time (180 days) for Philip Morris Altria Group to review and grant/deny permission to VCU for any possible publications by the researchers. VCU’s own guidelines state that any industry reviews take no more than 90 days.
More shocking is that the VCU even admits that it knew that many of the provisions violated the university’s guidelines for industry-sponsored research. About 15 public health and medical schools no longer accept donations from the tobacco industry, and many major research universities continue to do so only if guaranteed independence to carry out the research and publish the results. Universities should not take money from tobacco companies because of the public health impact of smoking and the tobacco industry’s past misuse of scientific research.