Critics slam appointments: Alcohol industry allies to lead health outcomes study | Eastern North Carolina Now

‘This is something to be deeply concerned about,’  says Rev. Creech

By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
November 30, 2023

In what can only be described as a case of “the fox guarding the hen house,” the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has appointed a couple of bosom buddies of the booze industry to chair a committee tasked with studying health outcomes related to alcohol.

The Christian Action League is joining alcohol policy consultant Diane Riibe and scores of other public health advocates to call for NASEM to rescind the appointments of Eric B. Rimm and Kenneth Mukamal to the committee based on the researchers’ widely publicized egregious conduct during an alcohol study that had to be shut down in 2018 because of violations of ethical standards and protocol.

“This is something to be deeply concerned about. The National Academies is tasked with studying the link between alcohol consumption and health. Their report will significantly impact the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for many years to come,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The influence of Big AL, the alcohol industry, is unmistakable in this matter.”

The process of establishing national Dietary Guidelines takes place every five years and is coordinated jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each taking a turn as the lead. The current process was set to be led by HHS. But the National Academies received a $1.3 million appropriation to examine how alcohol affects health, funding that would allow the nonprofit to sidestep the usual process and run its own parallel study. Rimm and Mukamal were quickly tapped to lead.

“Unfortunately, the alcohol industry’s fingerprints are all over the process and the National Academies’ selection of two researchers who engaged in unethical practices to benefit the alcohol industry calls for the nation’s response,” Riibe says.

Creech called the appointments “an alarming and bewildering development.” He pointed to a report from the National Institutes of Health that shed light on the alcohol industry’s undue influence on the Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health (MACH) trial. That study was halted after it was discovered that senior officials at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism covertly courted the alcohol industry to fund their $100 million project, and ensured that a favored principal investigator won the funding. That PI was Mukakel. Rimm was his co-investigator.

“Appointing these two researchers after their unethical behavior with MACH raises questions about the integrity of the findings that will emerge. This is appalling – the very industry that stands to profit from certain outcomes would hold such sway over critical health guidelines,” Creech said. “This must be stopped. It undermines the independent federal course that values rigorous scientific protocol. It threatens to create unnecessary confusion and uncertainty, especially when there are highly respected alcohol epidemiologists who were nominated through public health organizations and not considered for this NASEM committee.”

In light of these critical concerns, the Christian Action League is calling on the National Academies to reconsider the appointments of Rimm and Mukamal and to ensure that the study’s integrity is preserved.

“It is not hyperbole to say this is a matter of life and death for many Americans. The American people ought to have a fair and impartial assessment of the science behind drinking alcohol and its effects on one’s health,” Creech added.

He said proponents of solid research regarding alcohol should reach out to the National Academies via this online form and ask that the appointments of Rimm and Mukamal be rescinded.

TAKE ACTION:  Submit your feedback on committee composition via the online form.

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