The pharmaceutical industry faces an ethical dilemma when it conducts trials on its own drugs, Dr Jeffrey Drazen Editor in Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief of British Medical Journal, will argue in the world famous debating chamber at Oxford Union this month alongside Guardian Bad Science columnist Ben Goldacre.

Clinical trials are central to the success of the industry, providing the bedrock of evidence for a medicine’s use. Typically, these studies are conducted and paid for by pharma: in other words, the medicines developed by industry are tested by the industry.

But is this a conflict of interest? Is it acceptable for industry to pay for and run clinical trials of its own medicines – either for the purposes of registration or subsequent use?

Arguing in industry’s favour at the PharmaTimes’ Great Oxford Debate will be Robert Ruffolo, former R&D President of Research at Wyeth, Scott Gottlieb, former FDA senior official and a frequentWall Street Journal columnist, and Vincent Lawton, ex-Managing Director of MSD and President of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

“The motion – There is an unacceptable conflict of interest when pharma conducts trials on its own drugs – hits at the heart of the way new medicines are evaluated and how the pharmaceutical industry interacts with researchers, regulators, journals and clinicians,” comments Dr Godlee.

"The pharmaceutical industry has distorted evidence for many decades now: there is evidence of this in the design of individual studies, but also from quantitative analyses of published research, and most disturbingly, studies of what does not get published. This is done with the complicity of academics and doctors, in many cases, and it is unethical, but also dangerous. In medicine, bad information costs lives, and causes unnecessary suffering," argues Goldacre.

Prof Trevor Jones CBE, who will introduce the debate, says in the current climate of expansion of international clinical trial size and requirements its a very timely topic. "It will be of particular interest to hear from the expert speakers how the needs of the pharmaceutical industry, regulators, academic researchers, publishers of learned journals and not least, the public, can be accommodated", he notes.

Can any scientific endeavour be run without experimental bias? It should be an interesting debate! Have your say by joining us on September 23 at the Oxford Union. For more details and to register your attendance click here or contact Jessica Evans at PharmaTimes by email or phone +44 (0) 20 8878 8566.