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Medical Journals Force Drug Companies To Tell The Whole Truth

Last week in this space, I told you about a group of Nobel Prize-winning scientists who sent a joint letter to Congress and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asking that all taxpayer-funded research papers be free and available to the public. From all appearances, the call for change is growing even more on a different front this week.

The editors of 11 major medical journals joined forces to make researchers and companies register all clinical trials when they begin so unflattering or unclear results cannot later be covered up. The journals, including some of the most influential medical publications in the world, agreed not to publish any studies that were not registered when they began. One editor felt the quality of her publication "was being diminished somewhat because we didn't have access to the information."

The flashpoint for the change: The discovery that certain antidepressants may make adolescents more likely to commit suicide. Some companies were accused of covering up studies that could have shown this earlier. GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Forest Laboratories Inc. have agreed to release information on all their clinical studies on antidepressants to settle a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Congress has also explored the possibility of using the law to make companies tell more about what they know. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is drafting legislation to require a national registry and Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) have asked the FDA what legislation would be needed to give the agency more authority to require full reporting. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry lobbying group, announced on Tuesday it was setting up a database starting Oct. 1, albeit a voluntary one.

These are very exciting developments. It never seemed fair that taxpayers would fund the research and then not be able to view the results, but the journals would make extraordinary sums of money from selling it back to the public who paid for the research to begin with.

Believe me, I will keep you posted on this one as it develops and will provide you with all the links you need to get this free and valuable information.

Yahoo News September 8, 2004

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