Response to Washington Post Editorial “Missing Drug Data”

Today’s Washington Post editorial, Missing Drug Data, is divorced from reality. It is written by someone who clearly doesn’t understand the safety issues involved when doctors are kept ignorant of the risks of prescribing drugs that expose patients to severe adverse effects. Nor does the editor appear to understand clinical trials are the basis for the pharmaceutical industry’s multi-billion dollar business. The editorial would have us believe that “Forcing companies to publish results of all trials, as opposed to the fact of their existence…might backfire and wind up discouraging companies from conducting any trials at all.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16224-2004Jun29.html

Below is a letter to the editor by Dr. John Nobel, AHRP board member, which is posted on the Post’s online forum: http://forums.washingtonpost.com/wpeditorials/messages/?msg=3582.1

To the Editor:

Today’s (6/30/04) editorial, “Missing Drug Data,” misses the point and argues with the pharmaceutical industry and its allies in the Congress, the NIH and the FDA that data can be selectively reported to satisfy commercial interests. This is a blatant attack on Karl Popper’s falsifiability principle on which empirical science depends to make progress. One needs all the data in order to verify the results of clinical or any other kind of research. Most academics and pundits know that any case can be made if allowed to manipulate the data and assumptions. The AMA, the medical journal editors, and Eliot Spitzer, all deserve applause from the Washington Post editor-not quibbling about the possible damage that somehow, somewhere might result from strict embrace of the principles and practice of scientific inquiry. It’s all about transparency.

John H. Noble, Jr.
Endowed Professor for Social Justice
National Catholic School of Social Service
The Catholic University of America
Washington, DC 20064

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
Tel: 212-595-8974