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Conceptions Of Bias And Appointments To CIHR Governing Council

June 22, 2010

Under the principles of reasonable apprehension of bias, the appointment of Dr. Bernard Prigent to the Governing Council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) may be considered untenable, states an analysis article published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) (pre-embargo link only) http://www.cmaj.ca/embargo/cmaj100307.pdf.

Dr. Prigent, an executive with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer Canada, was appointed in October 2009 to the Governing Council of CIHR, Canada’s major granting agency. He is also registered with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada to lobby institutions, including CIHR, on behalf of Pfizer.

“The concept of reasonable apprehension of bias is an inquiry as to what an informed member of the public, one step removed from the situation, would think of the possibility for inappropriate factors to influence an appointee’s decision-making on a given topic,” writes Professor Elaine Gibson, Health Law Institute, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. “The test is whether the reasonable observer, apprised of the facts, would assess the circumstance to carry the potential of bias based on the decision-maker’s particular position.”

She concludes with the statement that the appointment brings the pharmaceutical industry and CIHR too close for comfort.

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