Thursday, July 05, 2012

Drug studies as drug marketing

Post by Health Care Renewal/Roy M. Poses discussing a story in the BMJ.  Assuming the truth of the allegations, would that affect the commercial speech analysis at all?  If a publisher has no financial interest in the drug/s at issue, then the study wouldn't be commercial speech as to that publisher, but any use of the study by the drugmaker should qualify.  Of course, Gordon & Breach and similar cases already treat promotional uses even of good-faith studies as commercial speech, so this corruption of the supposedly scientific process might not make a doctrinal difference in itself.  It might, however, justify greater scrutiny of the truthfulness/misleadingness of the claims made in this kind of commercial speech, as these quotes from the BMJ highlighted by Health Care Renewal indicate:
Since marketing claims needed to be backed-up scientifically, we occasionally resorted to 'playing' with the data that had originally failed to show the expected result. This was done by altering the statistical method until any statistical significance was found. Such a result might not have supported the marketing claim, but it was always worth giving it a go to see what results you could produce....
Other practices to ensure the marketing message was clear in the final publication included omission of negative results, usually in secondary outcome measures that had not been specified in the protocol, or inflating the importance of secondary outcome measures if they were positive when the primary measure was not. 
One unanswered question: how much wasted money does this data massaging cause?  Another: how much human suffering, as with Vioxx?

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