PHARMA/POLICY/POLITICS: Clinical trials corrupted by Wall Street

FrontpageThis is a doozy, and as it’s in the second first newspaper of a minor major west coast city metropolis and world class cultural center (Sorry, Ichiro & Frasier fans! See the comments, but I stand corrected!) it hasn’t quite had the attention that the front page of the NYT would give it.  Basically the Seattle Times has found a bunch of cases where hedge funds and other Wall Street brokerages found out who was running clinical trials for supposedly "double-blind" studies, and bribed the doctors (sorry, paid them consulting fees) to spill the beans ahead of the official announcement. Here’s their whole special, go punt around.

Now, insider trading happens all the time in Wall Street.  I myself have seen countless stock charts where an hour or two before an announcement the stock has gone doolally. Nothing ever seems to get done about it.  But this is a little different as it may impact the integrity of the clinical trial and the FDA’s role (not to mention the SEC).  And that tends to mean that Chuck Grassley wants in.  And he does.

For a long time people have been complaining about the fuzzy line between academic medicine and making money off it.  Apparently in several cases that line has been obliterated in a way that was not only unethical for medicine, but illegal even for Wall Street. This might, just might, be one of those trigger events that really changes how things get done in clinical trials and even biotech research. Well worth watching and kudos to the Seattle Times for coming up with it.

3 replies »

  1. I sought out some clinical trials to treat my claudication, since I currently don’t have insurance, and I wanted to point out how chintzy they are toward the people putting their health at risk (side effects, the possibility of being in a placebo group, etc.). The last trial I looked into paid $20.00 per visit. It took a couple of hours to get there, and part of the trip required a cab. I found out after I got there that the supposed cab vouchers were going to be subtracted from the $20.00. Even if that had helped my claudication, it didn’t do it because it didn’t seem right that I was practically paying the pharma company to provide them with useful data.

  2. Small thing, but not small to me as the managing editor of The Seattle Times. We’re not the “second paper” in this “minor” burg, we’re the largest in the state of Washington.