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Industry influence in healthcare harms patients: myth or maxim?

Trayer, James; Rowbotham, Nicola J.; Boyle, Robert J.; Smyth, Alan R.

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James Trayer

Nicola J. Rowbotham

Robert J. Boyle

Alan R. Smyth


Healthcare is a major global industry accounting for a significant proportion of government spending. Drug and medical device manufacturers are publicly traded companies with a responsibility to their shareholders to maximise profits by increasing sales. In order to achieve this, industry exerts influence over every part of healthcare including academic research, medical education, clinical guideline development, physician prescribing and through direct interactions with patients. In contrast, healthcare services seek to provide effective, safe and evidence-based treatments. This article examines interactions with industry across these domains and seeks to identify mutually beneficial relationships and potential conflict leading to patient harms. Case studies are used to illustrate these interactions. There is no single solution for improving healthcare’s relationship with industry, although increased transparency has raised awareness of this issue. We briefly discuss some successful interventions that have been tried at national and regulatory level. While industry influence is widespread in healthcare and this has benefits for shareholders, healthcare practitioners have an ethical obligation to prioritise their patients’ best interests. Industry interactions with healthcare professionals have a valid role in product development and distribution, but industry sponsorship of healthcare education and practice, guideline development or regulatory decision-making can have harmful consequences for patients. Healthcare practitioners need to carefully consider these issues when deciding whether to collaborate with industry.


Trayer, J., Rowbotham, N. J., Boyle, R. J., & Smyth, A. R. (2022). Industry influence in healthcare harms patients: myth or maxim?. Breathe, 18(2), Article 220010.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date May 31, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 11, 2022
Publication Date Jun 1, 2022
Deposit Date Jul 15, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 19, 2022
Journal Breathe
Print ISSN 1810-6838
Electronic ISSN 2073-4735
Publisher European Respiratory Society (ERS)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 2
Article Number 220010
Keywords Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
Public URL
Publisher URL


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