Selling Sickness 2013

a “merry band” of activists for transparency

The Sunday Business Section of the NY Times recently featured a long story about the work of Peter Doshi, one of the exciting speakers at our Selling Sickness conference. You can view his talk on exactly the investigative work on influenza and clinical trials of flu treatments that is highlighted in the Times on our conference presentations page.

Usually when one of us reformers, whistleblowers or activists is featured in the Times or other business press we get depicted as a lone dissenter, a maverick, an iconoclast, or a naysayer challenging the medical or pharmaceutical establishment. It’s sometimes hard to know if we are being celebrated for our David-against-Goliath-ness, or depicted as a perfectionist, a malcontent, an extremist, or worse.

The joyful news about this story is that while Doshi and other “activists for transparency” are given the usual Biblical cast, “There is an underdog feel to this fight, with postdocs and academics flinging stones at well-fortified corporations,” in this case the underdogs are a) “making headway,” and b) not alone. We have graduated from being imagined as the lone stone thrower of the Bible to the more powerful image of the renegades of Nottingham forest, i.e., “a band of far-flung researchers and activists.”

Fortunately, and perhaps tellingly, journalist Katie Thomas was given enough room to tell the entire Tamiflu story, and how it fits into the larger Selling Sickness issue of publication bias. In the course of discussing clinical trials transparency, Thomas gets to explain the Cochrane Collaboration, the crusading role of the British Medical Journal, and how even experienced researchers are having sheepishly to admit that they were naïve in assuming that published data represented all conducted trials.

We are all making headway.

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