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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dude Where's My Clinical Trial?

When does the media report on an advance in disease treatment coming from science, biotech or big pharma? It seems to be when science, biotech or big pharma tells them to do so. What I want to do here is show you a brief history of reporting on a new drug in development. The target is IL-6. See here for a little anti-IL-6 information and here for IL-6 and Crohn's disease. 

The pill we will be following comes from BMS and is known as BMS-945429

This is a monoclonal antibody against IL-6 and is in clinical trials for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's Disease. The trial for Crohn's Disease has been terminated.

First, let's look at the reports of the initiation of the trial (NCT01545050).
BioMedicineClinical Trials GPS  still recruiting???
PR Newswire
Puget Sound Business Journal
The search results come in two forms. 1) Alder (the biotech who sold the rights to the antibody to BMS) gets $3.5M milestone payment... and 2) BMS initiates clinical trial (ID# NCT01545050). The first kind of result is a narrative that implies success on the part of Alder. The second kind of result is just the facts on the trial. The question to be answered is why was the trial terminated? 

A quick search however, yields no results that explain what happened with this trial. The narrative style of reporting is completely suspended. Only on the factual search results can one find out that the trial has been terminated. Why do I care to connect the dots between the facts and the reporting of the trial?

As mentioned in the biotech cheerleading organization Xconomy, "...the product has more potential uses than that, and now Alder is pulling in some more cash as Bristol-Myers is advancing the drug as a treatment for Crohn’s disease." Can the loss of this trial be attributed to a caveat on the claim of "more potential uses"? 

If it is worth reporting on the potential of a drug, why is it not worth employing a little journalism to find out how that potential turns out? The potential, after all, is just the hype offered by the company. Whose job is it to follow these promises all the way down the road? 

When you report the existence of a clinical trial, all outcomes should be reported. Premature termination of a trial is an outcome. 

1 comment:

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