Mon AM: Webb Grills Henningfield on Addiction, Conflict of Interest and the 1988 SGR

November 29, 2004 2:43 pm by Gene Borio

Philip Morris Defense attorney Dan Webb spent the early morning session asking Dr. Henningfield about his work for pharmaceutical companies on nicotine replacement therapies, most specifically about his work for Glaxo on its Nicoderm CQ gum. Webb’s questions centered around Henningfield’s potential conflict of interest as both a former Glaxo consultant and as an editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report, “The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction.” Webb’s position was that Glaxo would stand to benefit financially if the SGR found that smoking was addictive. Webb asked Dr. Henningfield if “the pharmaceutical companies you consult with have an interest in seeing tobacco companies regulated in a way that helps them sell their nicotine replacement products?”

Webb tried to find out what discussions had been held with Surgeon General Koop and Surgeon General’s Report editor Ron Davis on the potential conflict. Dr. Henningfield could remember no specific discussions, but averred he had advised Davis, and that Dr. Koop certainly knew of his work. He stated that the consensuses seemed to be that any potential for conflict would be resolved through a) no single editor of the report would have complete influence on it and b) the peer review process.

“Did you discuss with Ron Davis that pharmaceutical companies would stand to gain from a conclusion that smoking was addictive,” Webb asked. Dr. Henningfield didn’t remember.

Webb brought out documents showing 2 criticisms of the draft of the report from scientists who felt the section on nicotine replacement gum was biased toward the pharmaceutical companies. Both Dr. Reese T. Jones and Dr. David Burns made such comments. Henningfield said all comments were taken seriously, and that there were many other comments saying the section should receive more emphasis.

Webb asked if there had been discussions about _not_ informing the public in the 88 Surgeon General’s Report that Dr. Henningfield had worked for pharmaceuticals on nicotine replacement products. Who made that determination, he asked? Dr. Henningfield had no specific answers; he said he had simply let the scientific process work.

When asked if, in looking back, he believed “it would have been better for there to have been a disclosure so the public would know there was this potential conflict of interest,” Dr. Henningfield said that he didn’t think so, as long as the public was assured there is a process to assure the highest level of science. He noted that the report had stood the test of time.

One Response to “Mon AM: Webb Grills Henningfield on Addiction, Conflict of Interest and the 1988 SGR”

  1. krueger Says:

    “And is it not true, sir, that condom manufacturers stood to benefit financially if HIV were found to be the cause of AIDS?”

    Why yes, I’d say condom manufacturers did stand to benefit financially when HIV was found to be the cause of AIDS. So what. HIV is the cause of AIDS.

    If this is the best Webb can do here, looks like the public’s case is doing all right.

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