Occasionally, you come across an interview or subject that blows you away with incredible claims that are both out in the open – and yet invisible. Today’s guest is an author and expert witness for some of the biggest pharmaceutical cases of this century, Dr. John Abramson. He reveals the rot that centers not only in the pharmaceutical industry but also the institutions that are constructed to serve as its guardrails – the medical journals, federal agencies, and guideline committees. In some
What Would Physicians Say if They Knew Medical Journals Had No Access to Data for Peer Review?
The most stunning aspect of the whole conversation centered around how the most prestigious medical journals conducted peer review without all of the clinical data. This means if anything was misrepresented or omitted there is no check on the truth of the claims from the study. Essentially, the journal and its reviewers are relying on the good faith submission of all important details from the study designers who are usually paid employees or have research paid for by the pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The most famous landmark case was with Pfizer withholding adverse event data (or misclassifying them to avoid statistical significance) on cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes) with their medication, Vioxx. Only when Pfizer was sued in a huge class action lawsuit did the actual clinical data get revealed showing that they had seen a signal for adverse events but intentionally did not disclose it (or the raw data) to the medical journal reviewers. Worse yet, once the error was presented, the medical journals spent very little time discussing the error. According to Dr. Abramson, this is in large part because up to 40% or more of medical journal revenue comes from study reprints. This financial incentive to find positive results and publish makes for a twisted system that incentivizes the promotion of new medications and devices when they may not be safe or very useful.