Sunday, September 05, 2004

Negative trial results and Big Pharm.

As previously noted here, PhRMA (the pharmaceutical industry association) responded to the rising tide criticism from physicians, consumers, and politicians by proposing guidelines for the release of clinical-trial results when those results are unfavorable.

The NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer went after Glaxo SmithKline for just such secrecy, resulting in a settlement announced August 26. Pursuant to the settlement, Glaxo will establish a "Clinical Trials Register" containing "all scientifically sound information" -- including both positive and negative results. Although Glaxo denies the allegations, Spitzer accused Glaxo of "[withholding] negative information about Paxil, a drug used to treat depression. Specifically, GSK conducted at least five studies on the use of Paxil in children and adolescents but only released one of these studies, which showed mixed results on efficacy. The lawsuit alleged that the company suppressed the negative results of the other studies, which failed to demonstrate that Paxil is effective and which suggested a possible increased risk of suicidal thinking and acts in certain individuals. The suit further alleged that GSK failed to disclose this information in 'Medical Information Letters' that it sent to physicians."

Now the Sept. 6 N.Y. Times reports that Merck & Co. has announced its intention of posting the same type of information on a government web site, ClinicalTrials.gov. According to the article:

The company has a history of publishing clinical trials even when the results reflected poorly on its drugs. And its announcement that it has already posted its results on ClinicalTrials.gov is, in part, an effort to make that Web site the standard for the rest of the industry.

ClinicalTrials.gov was created to provide patients suffering from deadly diseases a registry of trials of experimental treatments. Merck's move significantly expands the purpose and scope of the Web site's offerings.

Despite Merck's action, some in Congress say there is still a need for legislation that would require such public postings.

The article adds that Sen. Ted Kennedy is expected to introduce such legislation as early as this week.

Meanwhile, a House subcommittee is scheduled to hold hearings on the subject this week and later this month. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has scheduled hearings on September 9 ("Publication and Disclosure Issues in Anti-Depressant Pediatric Clinical Trials") and Sept. 23 ("FDA's Role in Protecting the Public Health: Examining FDA's Review of Safety & Efficacy Concerns in Anti-Depressant Use by Children").
posted by tommayo, 10:16 PM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter