Avandia And The Scientific Method

The Avandia debacle heats up, this time in the medical journal community. The editor of the premier medical journal, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has taken other journals to task for their methods of publishing articles. Using the Avandia RECORD study as the example of the conflicts of interest rampant in the medical publishing community, the editor explains “concerns about preserving market share apparently trumped concerns about the potential for causing patient harm.” For the past ten years, JAMA has required:
…at least 1 author must indicate that she or he “had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Additionally, that author cannot be funded by any commercial funding source. The source for this criterion is simply the age-old Hippocratic Oath—that physicians, above all else, must do no harm. The JAMA editor clearly understands that when industry pressures are brought to bear, physicians may be (and have been) influenced to in a manner inconsistent with good science. And the result is that people rely on bad studies, and patients take bad drugs with incomplete and faulty information. The editor further recommends that drug study data be freely available to academic researchers.
Not only will the editor’s suggestions (if enacted by other journals) provide a means to double-check data to ensure its quality, but it will provide an extra reason for scientists and researchers to do the right thing from the beginning, and to stay true to the scientific method.
Drug and medical device companies claim that the data from their studies are “proprietary property” and need not be shared. However, that clearly indicates a lack of concern for safety—data should be widely and freely available, because it is the right thing to do for patient safety.
So let’s get with the program, drug companies. Can you stand up in front of your consumers, tell them that you are making all data for your research fully available to anyone who wants to test it, and boldly stand up for patient safety? Please surprise me…