Showing posts with label drug studies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drug studies. Show all posts

November 28, 2012

The Tale of Avandia and Big Pharma: Why Critical Skepticism Matters as We Review Drug Studies

The front page of Sunday’s The Washington Post featured an article by Peter Whoriskey titled “As drug industry’s influence over research grows, so does the potential for bias.”

In a nutshell, the writer tells the story of how in 2006 Big Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) managed to land a glowing 17-page report about their diabetes blockbuster Avandia in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), even though:
  • there was apparently clear evidence linking Avandia to increased risk of heart attack and death, 
  • the drug trial had been funded by GSK, 
  • all 11 authors of the report received money from GSK. 
Four years later, in 2010, Avandia had disappeared from American drugstores. An FDA scientist estimated that while doctors in this country prescribed Avandia – propelled by laudatory reports like NEJM’s – 83,000 people using the drug suffered heart attacks or died.

A Washington Post review found that the NEJM published 73 articles about new drugs between August 2011 and August 2012. Here’s how Whoriskey characterized the literature over those 12 months:
Of those articles, 60 were funded by a pharmaceutical company, 50 were co-written by drug company employees and 37 had a lead author, typically an academic, who had previously accepted outside compensation from the sponsoring drug company in the form of consultant pay, grants or speaker fees.
My sense of smell is non-existent these days, but even I get a whiff of something unsavory here. Is Big Pharma’s drive for profit superceding public welfare?