Sunday, July 20, 2008

The story behind the story

A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had asked the FDA to re-examine data it had received from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) way back in 1989 when the drug company first applied for approval of its antidepressant, Paxil. Grassley alleged that GSK had misrepresented data in a study comparing the use of Paxil with placebo in treating adults with depression. See my June 15 blog, Drug company under fire for Paxil research.

In his June 12 letter to the FDA, Grassley also noted that this past spring, the British Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, FDA’s counterpart in the U.K., concluded that GlaxoSmithKline knew of Paxil’s increased suicidal risk in adolescents as far back as the 1990s but hid that information from physicians and consumers. I reach much the same conclusions in my book, Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower and a Bestselling Antidepresssant on Trial.

The attorney who reviewed my book for The Wall Street Journal must not have read about these new developments. Or perhaps he did but chose to overlook them. Indeed, there is much that Mark Hermann, an attorney who defends drug companies in product liability cases, overlooked or got flat wrong in his review, according to Dr. Roy Poses, a doctor affiliated with Brown University, who critiqued Hermann’s review in his latest Health Care Renewal blog. To the many fine points that Dr. Poses makes may I add that the point of my book is not that the drug industry funded the clinical trials of antidepressants, but that industry money paid for Paxil studies that are now being attacked as highly questionable in numerous quarters.

While some might argue that Hermann was only doing his job – after all, he gets paid to represent drug companies – the more salient question is: could The Wall Street Journal have found no one with a slightly less blaring conflict of interest to review my book? Surely, New York's bastion of business news can do better than this.

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