Riccardo Polosa

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Dr. Riccardo Polosa, MD, PhD, is the Director of the Institute for Internal Medicine and Clinical Immunology of the University of Catania in Italy. He is also in charge of the University's Centre for Tobacco Research (CPCT), and Honorary Professor of Medicine at Southampton University (UK). An internationally recognised leader in the field of clinical bronchoprovocation (airway-challenge studies), he is author of more than 250 peer reviewed articles and books mainly covering respiratory medicine, clinical immunology, and tobacco addiction.[1] After many years as President of the Italian Anti-Smoking League, LIAF (Lega Italiana Anti Fumo), Polosa now serves as LIAF’s Chief Scientific Advisor.[2]

Links to Tobacco Industry: Research Funded by Philip Morris USA (2003-2005)

Image 1. Budget of Dr Polosa’s Research Grant Application to Philip Morris
In April 2004, a LIAF press release announced that its President, Polosa, and Philip Morris were to jointly develop a research project on nicotine addiction. Internal tobacco industry documents show that Polosa, applied to PM’s External Research Program in August 2002, requesting $281,080 for a research study titled “Cigarette smoke and endothelial/platelet activation: Evaluation of prothrombotic markers during smoke cessation”[3]. The budget was to cover 20% of Polosa’s time as the study’s Principal Investigator, amounting to $19,900 over 2 years, and would further fund one “Res.Technician” post, and co-fund a fellowship (see Image 1).[3]

The Philip Morris grant ran from 1 May 2003 to 30 April 2005[4], and a signed agreement between Philip Morris and the University of Catania confirms Polosa’s key role in the project, deeming his services as “essential to the research being performed”.[5]

An internal Philip Morris document suggests that Philip Morris eventually awarded Polosa and his team a total of $316,060; $189,575 in the first year, and $125,485 in the second.[6] Under the terms and conditions of the agreement, Polosa and colleagues were required to acknowledge PM funding in all papers published resulting from this work. A 2009 Philip Morris list[7] detailing peer-reviewed publications that acknowledge PM funding, include one publication with Polosa as an author: Cacciola, R.R.; Guarino, F.; Polosa, R.; "Relevance of endothelial-haemostatic dysfunction in cigarette smoking". Current Medicinal Chemistry 14:103-112, 2007.

Links with the E-cigarette Industry (2010 to present)

In 2010, Polosa was the lead scientist in a clinical trial on e-cigarettes which concluded that e-cigarettes could be an effective smoking cessation tool.[8] According to the article’s Competing interests Statement, Polosa was a consultant for the Arbi Group, the manufacturer of the specific e-cigarettes trialled in the study, who had also supplied the trial’s e-cigarettes free of cost. Polosa subsequently endorsed this e-cigarette brand on the company’s website.

For more details see the page on E-cigarettes: Mixing Research and Marketing.

Conflict of Interests?

Polosa has been more transparent about his links with the e-cigarette and pharmaceutical industries, than about his past links with Philip Morris. For example, he was an invited speaker at the November 2015 E-cigarette summit, and declared on the Summit’s website that he is in receipt of lecture fees and research funding from GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, manufacturers of stop smoking medications, and that he served as a consultant for Pfizer and Arbi Group Srl (Milano, Italy), the distributor of Categoria™ e-Cigarettes. [2][9] There was no mention of his past funding from Philip Morris.

Similarly a recent article he co-authored with David Nutt et al[10] also does not mention his previous tobacco industry links. This article, which concluded that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco, was strongly criticised in an August 2015 editorial in the Lancet[11]. Apart from questioning the validity of the study’s methodology and conclusions, the Editorial drew attention to the authors’ conflicts of interests, including Polosa’s links with the e-cigarette industry.

Polosa’s reply to the journal claimed that the editorial tried to discredit the scientific value of the paper by raising “irrelevant” conflict of interest issues, stating that the Lancet appeared to be “more concerned about my temporary involvement with a small-size e-cigarette company that went out of business than with my pharma fundings.” [12]

This letter again failed to mention past funding from Philip Morris.

Notes

  1. P. Bergen, E Cigarette Interview with Professor Riccardo Polosa, The Ash Tray blog, October 2011, accessed October 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 E-cigarette conference, Professor Riccardo Polosa, website, November 2014, accessed December 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Philip Morris External Research Program, Application for Research Grant, Riccardo Polosa, 26 August 2002, accessed September 2015
  4. Philip Morris, Unknown. Department of Scientific Affairs Research Contracts, 14 January 2004, accessed September 2015
  5. Philip Morris, Philip Morris USA Inc, Tomaselli Hospital Univ of Catania, Dimaria, Gu, Solana, RP. External Research Agreement between Tomaselli Hospital, University of Catania and Philip Morris US Inc 1 May 2003, accessed September 2015
  6. Philip Morris, Philip Morris External Program Summary. Cigarette Smoke and Endothelial/ Platelet Activation: Evaluation of Prothrombotic Markers During Smoking Sessions, 15 April 2004, accessed September 2015
  7. Philip Morris, Peer reviewed publication acknowledging support from the Philip Morris External Research Program September 2009, accessed September 2015
  8. R. Polosa, P. Caponnetto, J.B. Morjaria, G. Papale, D. Campagna, C. Russo, Effect of an electronic nicotine delivery device (e-Cigarette) on smoking reduction and cessation: a prospective 6-month pilot study, BMC Public Health 2011, 11:786, accessed September 2015
  9. The E-cigarette Summit, Professor Riccardo Polosa, website, November 2015, accessed August 2015
  10. D. Nutt, L.D. Phillips, D. Balfour, H.V. Curran, M. Dockrell, J. Foulds, K. Fagerstrom, K. Letlape, A. Milton, R. Polosa, J. Ramsay, D. Sweanor, Estimating the Harms of Nicotine-Containing Products Using MCDA Approach, European Addiction Research 2014; 20:2018-225, accessed September 2015
  11. E-cigarettes: Public Health England’s evidence-based confusion, The Lancet Editorial 29 August 2015, accessed September 2015
  12. R Polosa, E-cigarettes: Public Health England’s evidence based confusion? Letter to The Lancet, 3 September 2015, accessed September 2015