Clinical Trials, the Research Ecosystem and the Washington Post's Misguided Story

Clinical Trials, the Research Ecosystem and the Washington Post's Misguided Story

11.26.12 | By

Clinical trials are a critical part of the development of innovative medicines that deliver life-saving benefits to patients. Unfortunately, a one-sided Washington Post article based on the unfounded assumption that any industry funding of clinical research inherently leads to a conflict of interest and bias in results omits significant evidence that demonstrates the ethical rigor of biopharmaceutical research.

In fact, clinical research is conducted under strict ethical and legal requirements. An elaborate system of safeguards is in place including blinding of trials, oversight by institutional review boards, independent data safety monitoring committees, regulatory agencies, editorial peer review and post-marketing surveillance. This system of checks and balances is focused on protecting patients' safety and privacy, and ensuring the integrity of clinical trials regardless of who funds and who conducts the research.

At the same time that the Washington Post criticized the industry for biasing results by collaborating with research partners and providing funding to scientists, the New York Times published a glowing profile of Dr. Robert Langer and the Langer Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Langer Lab, which spawned numerous companies and hundreds of patents, demonstrates the value of effective collaboration between industry and academy. According to the article, Dr. Langer serves on the boards of 12 companies and as a consultant to large biopharmaceutical companies. The article also discusses how MIT addressed the potential for conflicts of interest, demonstrating how institutions successfully implement a rigorous system of checks and balances.

The Washington Post article does note the huge investment in biopharmaceutical companies in research and development annually, which the article states exceeded the federal government's investment in research by $8 billion last year: "The billions that the drug companies invest in such experiments help fund the world's quest for cures." On that, we agree. The biopharmaceutical sector is proud of our commitment to science and the over 300 new medicines that have been approved over the last decade - and the 3,200 in the pipeline today.

You can read PhRMA's detailed response to the article here. Interested in learning more about the clinical development process and the biopharmaceutical industry's commitment to patient safety and transparency? Check out our clinical trials resource page and read a guest article by the Chairman of the Association of Clinical Research Organizations (ACRO) on how clinical trial participants are medical heroes.

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