Showing posts with label IRB. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IRB. Show all posts

Thursday, March 24, 2011

People Who Disagree with Me Tend to End Up Being Investigated by the Federal Government

I don’t think this qualifies yet as a trend, but two disturbing announcements came right back to back last week:

First: As you’ve probably heard, KV Pharmaceutical caused quite a stir when they announced the pricing for their old-yet-new drug Makena. In response, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sent a letter to the FTC demanding they “initiate a formal investigation into any potential anticompetitive conduct” by KV. In explaining his call for the investigation, Brown notes:

Since KV Pharmaceuticals announced the intended price hike, I called on KV Pharmaceuticals to immediately reconsider their decision, but to this date the company continues to defend this astronomical price increase.

Second: One week after an FDA Advisory Committee voted 13 to 4 to recommend approving Novartis’s COPD drug indacaterol, Public Citizen wrote a letter to the US Office of Human Research Protections requesting the Novartis be investigated for conducting the very trials that supplied the evidence for that vote. The reason? Despite the fact that the FDA requested the trials be placebo controlled, Public Citizen feels that Novartis should not have allowed patients to be on placebo. The letter shows no apparent consideration for the idea that a large number of thoughtful, well-informed people considered the design of these trials and came to the conclusion that they were ethical (not only the FDA, but the independent Institutional Review Boards and Ethics Committees that oversaw each trial). Instead, Public Citizen blithely “look[s] forward to OHRP’s thorough and careful investigation of our allegations.”

The upshot of these two announcements seems to be: “we don’t like what you’re doing, and since we can’t get you to stop, we’ll try to initiate a federal investigation.” Even if neither of these efforts succeed they will still cause the companies involved to spend a significant amount of time and money defending themselves. In fact, maybe that’s the point: neither effort seems like a serious claim that actual laws were broken, but rather just an attempt at intimidation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Realistic Optimism in Clinical Trials

The concept of “unrealistic optimism” among clinical trial participants has gotten a fair bit of press lately, mostly due to a small study published in IRB: Ethics and Human Research. (I should stress the smallness of the study: it was a survey given to 72 blood cancer patients. This is worth noting in light of the slightly-bizarre Medscape headline that optimism “plagues” clinical trials.)

I was therefore happy to see this article reporting out of the Society for Surgical Oncology. In looking at breast cancer outcomes between surgical oncologists and general surgeons, the authors appear to have found that most of the beneficial outcomes among patients treated by surgical oncologist can be ascribed to clinical trial participation. Some major findings:
  • 56% of patients treated by a surgical oncologist participated in a trial, versus only 7% of those treated by a general surgeon
  • Clinical trial patients had significantly longer median follow-up than non-participants (44.6 months vs. 38.5 months)
  • Most importantly, clinical trial patients had significantly improved overall survival at 5 years than non-participants (31% vs. 26%)

Of course, the study reported on in the IRB article did not compare non-trial participants’ attitudes, so these aren’t necessarily contradictory results. However, I suspect that the message of “clinical trial participation” entails “better follow-up” entails “improved outcomes” will not get the same eye-catching headline in Medscape. Which is a shame, since we already have enough negative press about clinical trials out there.