Surprise! A study in the recent JAMA (Paul M Ridker, MD; Jose Torres, BA
JAMA. 2006;295:2270-2274. ) found that cardiovascular studies funded by drug companies tended to be biased towards new treatments. This relates to a little ethical problem we have at my school. A publisher of introductory biology texts and laboratory manuals has offered us a great deal: a $2,000 grant if we adapt their package for our introductory course. The grant is to the school for lab supplies and it sounds on the surface like a great deal.
But it bothers me because it seems like we are being pressured to accept this deal at the expense of really looking at other books. Since sometimes I am overly sensitive about such things I asked my wife about the ethics of such things. Can for instance a drug rep tie adaptation of a drug to some sort of favor. Clearly illegal in medicine. How about if the favor is to to the clinic. Still clearly illegal. She pointed out that the situation is much like payola in which DJ's are bribed to play certain songs...again illegal.
Now professors are not quite under the same legal constraints, but it seems to me we are venturing into a ethically problematical area, dealing with something that is legal but not strictly ethical, maybe not all that dissimilar from the situations medical professionals find themselves in, or researchers taking money from private companies to test the efficacy of different therapies.