Forbes Column Takes on "The Washington Post's Irresponsible Critique of Pharma"

Forbes Column Takes on "The Washington Post's Irresponsible Critique of Pharma"

12.05.12 | By Stephanie Fischer

Not surprisingly, PhRMA was not alone in objecting to the one-sided article on clinical trials which was recently featured on the front page of the Washington Post. John LaMattina, a senior partner at PureTech Ventures and former president of Pfizer R&D, dedicated his column for Forbes to rebutting key allegations of the article.

Relying on his experience with pharmaceutical research and development, LaMattina explains how pharmaceutical companies seek input from many sources when designing clinical trials for potential new medicines including respected academics who advise what information will be most useful to doctors and patients and the Food and Drug Administration that must accept the clinical protocol and can request changes during the course of the trials. While these experts are paid for conducting clinical trials, the prevalence of failure of late-stage clinical trials runs counter to assertions that consulting fees create a bias in favor of the pharmaceutical company.

LaMattina debunks the notion of a company's ability to unduly influence the clinical data by explaining the role of the Data Safety Monitor Board (DSMB) which, "monitors all the clinical trial data as it is generated and the sponsoring company, the one spending the hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the study, are not given access to the results until the study is complete. The DSMB meets monthly, reviews the data and simply tells the company that the trial can proceed or it needs to be halted. It is impossible to manipulate data generated in this way."

LaMattina notes that the pharmaceutical industry has made great progress on the issue of clinical trial transparency, particularly through the submission and registration of all clinical trials involving patients on the NIH's clinical trial database.

As you can read on PhRMA's Clinical Research and Trials webpage, biopharmaceutical companies are committed to releasing the results of all clinical trials involving products that are approved for marketing, or investigational products whose development programs are discontinued, regardless of outcome. We recognize and support the important public health benefits associated with making appropriate clinical trial information available to healthcare practitioners, patients and the public. Such data are best disseminated in a fashion that is scientifically robust, while maintaining protection for individual privacy and incentives for future innovation.

And we agree with Mr. LaMattina that articles such as the recent one in the Washington Post, "undermine the progress of drug discovery R&D and do a disservice to the millions of patients who could benefit from new treatments that emerge from these studies."

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