Friday, November 2, 2012

The big BMJ clinical trials announcement, and more pharma spin

I suppose it’s possible for a public statement from a corporation or pharma trade group to consist of something other than self-serving manipulative rhetoric. It’s probably also possible to find a Van Morrison song that doesn’t contain some variant of “old,” “road,” or “soul.” Wouldn’t count on either.

The British Medical Journal has announced that beginning in 2013 it won’t publish the results of clinical trials if the detailed data are not made available. (How tragically backwards things have become that this would have to happen at all, and that it will be only one small step towards the transparency needed, even assuming it works and that other journals follow BMJ’s lead. We’re talking about the evidentiary basis on which governments, doctors, and everyone else are supposed to make decisions about medical treatments, and the powerful – despite overwhelming evidence of the human costs of their duplicity - have been able to build a system in which they control access.)

Pharma has relentlessly fought attempts to get them to make the data available to the public, and they continue, and will continue, to use every trick in their bag to evade disclosure requirements. They’ll continue to insist that the problem isn’t that serious, the problem used to be serious but isn’t any longer, clinical trials databases are sufficient even if transparency isn’t enforced, they’ve always complied with reporting requirements, they’ve already been addressing the problem, they support efforts to remedy the problem, the problem can’t be remedied ethically or efficiently, they mean well and are investigating the best way to cooperate, and so on, all simultaneously.

Ben Goldacre and One Boring Old Man report on pharma’s spinjinks, past and present. If there weren’t lives at stake, it would be funny to watch them and their shills at it. I did come across an entertaining response to one of their tactics – one which rings strangely familiar… - in the comments at Goldacre’s blog:

-The sky is blue.

-I can’t see how you can be so sure.

-I see it every time the clouds clear. I saw it yesterday.

-So your most recent observation was 24 hours ago. It was also based on scattered sunlight that takes several milliseconds to travel through the atmosphere, so your claim is old, based on even older data.

-There is no reason to think the colour of the sky has changed. The laws of physics are the same as they always were, human colour perception likewise. If you’re claiming there is any reason to doubt the colour of the sky, can you present your evidence?

-All you have shown is that the sky was blue slightly more than a day ago. I am not claiming the sky is any particular colour, just that we do not know the colour of the sky at the moment. If you cannot present evidence that the sky is blue now, I cannot see that your claim is supported.

-I’ve just looked outside again and there was a slight gap in the clouds. I could see the blue sky.

-You have not presented comprehensive evidence that the sky is blue right now.

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