LONDON - The four largest tobacco companies have invested billions of dollars into companies that produce medicines or medical products.

Alarmingly, more than half of these investments target treatments for diseases caused or aggravated by smoking.

Journalists from The Investigative Desk, Politiken and The British Medical Journal have uncovered a troubling connection: the medical companies benefiting from tobacco industry investments are also funding scientific research. Their analysis of PubMed, the online archive of medical research, revealed 876 studies with financial ties to these investments.

This financial entanglement poses a significant challenge for doctors and scientists striving to maintain independence from the tobacco industry's influence. A stark example is a Dutch pediatric lung disease researcher who suddenly found his PhD research funding source taken over by tobacco giant Philip Morris.

Experts warn that the tobacco industry’s infiltration into medical science is perilous. Tobacco companies strategically finance research to distract from studies that cast them in a negative light. Due to these questionable motives, many scientists, academic journals, and universities are increasingly wary of any association with the tobacco industry. Some journals have even instituted a 'tobacco code' to exclude research funded by tobacco companies. Despite these efforts, at least 13 journals have published studies with financial links to tobacco industry investments.

This investigation reveals the consequences of the confluence of tobacco money and medical research, raising questions about the relationship between industry funding and scientific integrity.

Illustration by Follow The Money

Team members

Mathilde de Jeu

Mathilde de Jeu (1995) is a freelance journalist and joined The Investigative Desk in 2021.

Mathilde de Jeu

Irene van den Berg

Irene van den Berg (1978) has been an independent journalist since 2006.

Irene van den Berg

John Hansen

John Hansen (1954) is a senior investigative journalist for Politiken in Denmark.

John Hansen

need resources for your own investigative story?

Journalismfund Europe's flexible grants programmes enable journalists to produce relevant public interest stories with a European mind-set from international, national, and regional perspectives.


support independent cross-border investigative journalism

We rely on your support to continue the work that we do. Make a gift of any amount today.