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The Philip Morris External Research Program: results from the first round of projects
  1. N Hirschhorn1,
  2. S Aguinaga Bialous2,
  3. S Shatenstein3
  1. 1London, UK
  2. 2Tobacco Policy International, San Francisco, California, USA
  3. 3GLOBALink News & Information, Montreal, Canada
  1. Correspondence to:
 Norbert Hirschhorn
 115 Greencroft Gardens, London NW6 3PE, UK; bertzpoet{at}


Background: Philip Morris (PM) launched the Philip Morris External Research Program (PMERP) in 2000, two years after the company agreed to the dissolution of two industry-wide, external research programmes: the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) and the Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR). Our previous analysis of PMERP’s Request for Applications noted that PMERP’s structure, while ostensibly concerned with new product development, was remarkably similar to that of CIAR. We also found the majority of designated peer-reviewers had previous ties to the tobacco industry and the research solicitation seemed to invite mitigating evidence concerning cigarettes and constituent risks. We concluded that a prime reason for PMERP’s existence was to garner scientific credibility for PM.

Objective: To examine the grants awarded in the first round of PMERP and subsequent peer-reviewed publications.

Methods: Searches of industry documents available on the internet using PMERP and its variations as initial keywords; searches on Medline for publications from PMERP grantees.

Results: Of 153 applications, 61 proposals were funded, 36 of which generated 78 scientific publications. Of these, 65% deal specifically with the tobacco plant or constituents. Over half the researchers listed as PMERP participants had previously received or applied for tobacco funding. One internal document indicated PMERP’s objectives included gaining “credibility” and “goodwill”, and finding “young scientists”. In addition, PM has launched its own and more extensive internal product design research programme.

Conclusion: PMERP appears to exist less as a conduit for critical scientific inquiry than to fit into a corporate strategy intended to burnish PM’s public image.

  • CIAR, Center for Indoor Air Research
  • CTR, Council for Tobacco Research
  • INBIFO, Institut für Biologische Forschung
  • PI, principal investigator
  • PM, Philip Morris
  • PMERP, Philip Morris External Research Program
  • RFA, Request for Applications
  • SAB, Science Advisory Board
  • Philip Morris
  • external research
  • Philip Morris External Research Program
  • Center for Indoor Air Research

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  • Declaration of conflict: none