Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wall Street Journal: Medical Editor Turns Activist On Drug Trials

NEJM editor Drazen returns to the Light Side of the Force. The revelation about academic medical centers willingly accepting ghost-writing or marginalization of their faculty as principal authors is stunning.

JEFFREY DRAZEN, editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, has prescribed a strong dose of disclosure for the pharmaceutical industry he was once accused of embracing too closely.

This week, Dr. Drazen accused three big pharmaceutical companies of "making a mockery" of a government database designed to provide accessible information about drug trials. He also joined a dozen other medical-journal editors in again warning that they might refuse to publish studies that don't adhere to their disclosure demands. Dr. Drazen has also recently written, and his journal has published, pieces critical of companies suppressing negative information about drug trials.

And the journal today plans to publish a study suggesting that drug companies may be exerting more influence over the supposedly independent academic investigators that they hire to conduct drug trials than had previously been known. The study, a survey of 107 medical-school research centers, shows that half would allow sponsors of their research to draft manuscripts reporting the results while limiting the role of the investigator to suggesting revisions.

... Dr. Drazen's newfound activism is especially striking since he came under fire for his own financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry when he took his current job at the New England Journal five years ago.

"He's been converted," said Marcia Angell, senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School and Dr. Drazen's predecessor as editor-in- chief. "Through painful experience, Jeff is learning what these companies are about. He sees the ugly side that he hadn't seen before -- the bias that company-sponsored research contains, the suppression of results that they don't like, the spin of unfavorable results."

-- SS

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