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Democratizing Strategies for Industry-Funded Medical Research: A Cautionary Tale

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


The article examines the process of niche standardization in medical research as an example of democratizing strategies implemented in industry-funded science. I argue that niche standardization can lead to undesirable epistemic and ethical consequences, if the various goals of research are not properly aligned. I examine two examples: the case of Sarafem, approved for the treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder in women, and the case of BiDil, approved for exclusive use in African Americans for the treatment of congestive heart failure. I conclude by cautioning against the unqualified support of democratizing strategies in industry-funded research.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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The author would like to thank the organizers and participants of the 2015 Collaboration Conundrum Conference at the University of Notre Dame, the 2016 Conference on Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology at the University of Texas at Dallas, and the TINT Centre at the University of Helsinki for their useful comments on previous drafts. Special thanks to Bennett Holman for organizing the PSA symposium on industry-funded science, as well as Heather Douglas and Kevin Elliott for their contributions. Finally, thanks to Martin Carrier, Inmaculada de Melo-Martin, Dan Hicks, and Kevin Elliott, whose comments greatly contributed to improving the argument of the article.


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