May 31, 2010

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, At It Again

The warping of facts continues.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) published the latest piece in its "Side Effects: Money, Medicine, and Patients" series, this time turning attention to the role academic physicians play in clinical research.

In short, the author (sometimes referred to as a "journalist") is furthering activists' arguments that industry sponsored research is biased and cannot be trusted.  The article, entitled "Doctors' role in drug studies criticized" (HERE), casts aspersions on physicians that collaborate on such trials by highlighting that they are compensated for their expertise and work, and they may not review raw clinical trial data.

The compensation issue has been building for decades, mostly among a small group of academic physicians and advocates yelling to each in an echo chamber.  Despite lack of sound evidence to support any of their claims regarding the impact of compensation, or physician-industry collaboration more broadly, on patients, new regulations are being adopted at academic medical centers and in both the federal and state governments.  The echo chamber sprung a (toxic) leak.

The attack on industry-sponsored research is more recent and comes in a variety of forms.  The attack on research is the third stage of a larger plan to sever all relationships between industry and physicians.

Stage 1: Portray product marketing as bribery resulting in unconscious prescribing.

Stage 2: Fabricate claims regarding bias in medication education and eliminate industry grants for CME.

Stage 3: Transition from industry conducting research on their own products to a government agency conducting trials.

This article, which claims that failure to review raw data constitutes scientific misconduct (inferred), fits into the stage three strategy and is one of several argument emerging that industry scientists cannot be trusted to do sound work nor should they be able to collaborate with outside experts.  The other argument being developed is that placebo-controlled trials, the standard for FDA approval of medications, are insufficient to demonstrate efficacy (more to come on another post).

Take two minutes to read the article ... it's worth attempting to find a documented negative outcome of the activities described or any link to patients.