Basically, although ezetimibe has been shown to reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol, it has never been shown that using the drug to do so produces any clinical benefit, e.g., prevents heart attacks or strokes, prolongs life, etc. The ENHANCE trial was designed to determine whether the drug at least reduced arterial obstruction, thought to be a good predictor of bad clinical events. After reporting of the trial's results was delayed, it became evident that:
- The trial's Principal Investigator had no access to the trial's original data, and no control over how the data was analyzed.
- The data was owned and analyzed by the drug companies that nominally "sponsored" the trial.
- The same drug companies decided to change the trial's endpoint after the trial was implemented and the data was collected.
- The companies justified the decision as coming from an expert panel they convened (and presumably paid for.) However, they did not reveal who was on the panel.
As Doctors Brody, Blumsohn, and Aberegg pointed out, this trial is just the latest poster child for how pharmaceutical manufacturers (and other health care corporations) can manipulate the design, implementation, analysis, and reporting of clinical research they sponsor so as to make their products look as good as possible. Is it (clinical) research, or is it (pharmaceutical) marketing?
My main addition to the expert commentary already made about this trial is that not only does the control of clinical research by organizations with vested interests in having the research turn out a certain way challenge the research's validity. It also is an affront to the research subjects who thought they were participating in a study meant to advance science and possibly health care.