(A glimpse into my life as a Vanderbilt medical student)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Clinical Trials and Cover-ups



There are some days that just make me glad I’m not the CEO of Pfizer. "Some" being the operative word here. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lear jets as much as the next guy, but new regulations proposed by the editors of everything from the NEJM to the CMJ (that’s Croatian Medical Journal to all you academic philistines) are about to make a lot of drug companies just a little unhappy. Specifically, a letter published today in the NEJM specifies that, in order to be considered for publication, a drug trial must initially be registered with a public trials registry.

The authors defend their position saying that the new registry will make long strides in preventing the practice of “selective reporting of trials” that has long been part of the seedy underbelly of academic medicine. (Ok, so it isn’t exactly Nip/Tuck, but we academics have to get our kicks where we can.) A NY Times’ article on the announcement notes that several major drug companies have recently adopted plans to begin self-reporting of their current and future clinical trials. In a swift critique of these statements, the Times is quick to reference the recent Paxil disaster. (Though not as quick as they were in pointing out the SIGNIFICANT lack of Republican database legislation. So much spin I’m gettin dizzy.)

This time, however, I’m gonna have to side with the Times. Trial reporting shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Drug companies have too much money riding on the next wonder drug to go around airing their dirty laundry in prestigious journals (as I mix metaphors like a mad literary DJ). It’s going to take more than a village to make these power players talk, and I think a little NEJM strong-arming might just be the incentive they need. After all, if it turned out the new treatment for migraines caused spontaneous schizophrenia, wouldn’t you and your (invisible) friends want to know?

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