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.
Recent revelations indicate that pharmaceutical companies have selectively reported partial (favorable) clinical trial results from pediatric antidepressant trials and concealed evidence of harm from physicians, other health care professionals, and the public. It is universally agreed in the literature that failure to disclose all trial results compromises physicians’ ability to provide professional care – thereby increasing the likelihood of causing preventable harm. More generally, failure to disclose trial results in scientific publications taints the scientific literature (by rendering it not credible) and, as New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer charged recently, constitutes plain and simple fraud.