Friday, December 21, 2007

Zetia: But Why Would We Show You the Scary Data?

Alex Berenson has potentially unearthed another December Surprise for a major drug company. You may recall that last December, Berenson started writing on the Zyprexa mess (1, 2), which everyone can now read about through accessing the now-infamous Zyprexa documents over at Furious Seasons.

It now appears that there have been at least three unpublished studies regarding the health effects of Merck/Schering Plough's anticholesterol drug Zetia that point to the drug causing liver problems. Read the full article at the New York Times. Only time and a little sunshine on these studies will reveal whether this is a big story, but it is important to note that this is not particularly surprising -- on this modest blog, I have documented several incidents of data pointing to poor efficacy and/or drug risks being buried (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 are just a few examples). Many other blogs, newspapers, and other sources have also documented such problems. Hiding data is an everyday occurrence. For whatever new medication is approved, the public dissemination of risks and benefits are managed by the sponsoring company and what would be the company's motivation to provide data that paint a scary picture of their new drug?

1 comment:

Alex Chernavsky said...

What strikes me in these cases is just how little progress we are making. I've been following this stuff for the last 12 years or so, and I see a lot of exposés -- but not a lot of substantial changes that result from those exposés.

For example, if you look back to 2000-2001, you'll see that David Willman -- a reporter for the Los Angeles Times -- won the Pulitzer prize for a series of articles about corruption in the pharmaceutical industry. His articles are first-rate and are still worth reading today:

But that was seven years ago. Are we in a better position today? Maybe I'm being overly harsh, but I just don't see a lot of progress made. Big Pharma has corrupted medicine -- and especially psychiatry -- and now has its sights set on psychologists.