A Major Industry-Funded Alcohol Study Was Compromised. How Many Others Are Out There? – Undark Magazine

Last year, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the federal National Institutes of Health, laid out plans for what is a rarity in the realm of public health: a high quality clinical trial. The “Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health Trial,” known as MACH15, was to be randomized so that some subjects would be selected to drink and some would not. It would follow participants “prospectively,” over time, not retrospectively. And in the end, the results were to be adjudicated by evaluators blinded to which subjects had been instructed to drink and which to abstain. The goal was an assessment of the effect of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular health.

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The methodologic problems of the MACH15 trial’s design are considerable. How the outcome measures ever passed muster defies logic.

But last month, the National Institutes of Health took the unusual step of shutting down one of its own clinical trials — a $100 million dollar experiment gone wrong. The announcement followed an internal investigation, prompted by a dogged New York Times report, that uncovered inappropriate interactions between the alcohol industry (Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, and others) and the NIAAA in the execution of MACH15.

By law, federal health agencies can receive funding from for-profit industry. But direct courting of funding, coordination, and collaboration on research design, and excessive communications are not permitted, and according to The Times and the findings of the NIH’s subsequent internal investigation, these violations occurred early and often during

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