Wednesday, March 01, 2006

News Flash: Procter and Gamble to Let Researchers See Their Own Data

We have posted frequently, (most recently here) about the story of Dr Aubrey Blumsohn's dispute with Proctor and Gamble (P&G) and Sheffield University in the UK. In summary, Blumsohn and Professor Richard Eastell had done clinical research on the risedronate (Actonel), sponsored by P&G, the drug's manufacturer. P&G refused Blumsohn access to the original data from the study he was ostensibly running, and hired a ghost-writer to write abstracts in his name. Blumsohn protested to Eastell, who advised him not to make waves because P&G "is a good source of income" for the university. When protests to other university officials produced no results, Blumsohn told the story to the press, whereupon the university suspended him.

According to the (UK) Guardian, P&G has made a major concession, "last week [it] confirmed it had written a 'bill of rights' setting out the rights of researchers to have access to all the data relevant to their work, so that they can 'confirm the accuracy of statements and conclusions published with them as co-authors.'"

Pending the reading of the actual "bill of rights," this appears to be a step in the right direction.

Of course, that researchers should be allowed access to data from their own research product, and that they should be able to affirm the accuracy of papers that they have authored seems to be a complete no-brainer. That it is news that a pharmaceutical company has put such statements in writing says something about how low much of clinical research has sunk. That universities, medical schools, and academic medical centers have signed contracts with corporate research sponsors to permit the corporations to control the research data produced by faculty "investigators," and how the data is reported is a scandal. (See systematic evidence provided by the Mello study, and post here).)

Let's see if any other companies are brave enough to follow Procter and Gamble's good example. Let's see if any academic leaders will be emboldened to defend the academic integrity of their own faculty.

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