Some manufacturers conduct misleading scientific studies in order to manufacture and sell their products, according to epidemiologist Dr. David Michaels, author of Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. Dr. Oz talks with Dr. Michaels about how companies market doubt and what questions consumers need to be asking about science and regulation.
In the '50s, tobacco manufacturers were the first to manufacture doubt and uncertainty in order to sell a product that they knew was dangerous, Dr. Michaels says. "It was fabulously successful for tobacco, so other industries recognized this," he says. "The public relations industry then went to other industries and said, 'Here's what we can do for you.' Now, it's everywhere."
Basing manufactured products' research on faulty scientific trials isn't the only thing that is causing uproar in the scientific community, Dr. Michaels says. "The biggest risks I see are that we have well-designed trials, so well designed that they specifically avoid getting into areas where the weaknesses of the project are so they won't become exposed," Dr. Michael says.
In order to make this information more readily available and regulate these studies, Dr. Michaels makes the following suggestions:
Demand to know who paid for the study. What was the relationship between the authors of the study and the sponsor?
Make sure all the scientific work is really transparent so that people can see the drafts as they develop and see the comments. "Right now, it's pretty apparent that studies are being edited behind closed doors," he says.
Ensure that the scientists have a right to speak up. Dr. Michaels is working on a project at George Washington University—where he is a research professor and associate chairman in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health—that looks at the question of what the rights and responsibilities of government scientists are. "If someone's done a study, it needs to be made public," he says. "It needs to be published."
Rebuild the government infrastructure. "We have to insist that the government agencies do a good job getting information out because it is too complicated for the average consumer," Dr. Michaels says.