Drug company links ‘may have compromised cancer study in The Lancet’

Friday, January 21, 2011

MELBOURNE - Cancer treatment research published in The Lancet may have been compromised by a drug company that funded the study, according to three Melbourne oncologists.

They said that publication of the research may have boosted the drug’s perceived value to doctors and patients around the world, helping its manufacturer, Roche, make billions of dollars from the product.

In a letter sent to The Lancet last year, Ian Haines from Cabrini Hospital and two colleagues said they were concerned that 27 out of 32 authors of the research published last October had potential conflicts of interest, given they had declared various financial links to drug companies, including Roche, reports the Age.

One of these 27 authors was a paid employee of the company.

The research examined the efficacy of Roche’s drug MabThera (also known as rituximab), for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)-the most common type of leukaemia diagnosed each year in Australia.

It concluded the drug improved survival rates for patients with the disease, causing the drug to be widely funded and adopted by doctors around the world.

The letter also questioned a comment piece on the study, written by Peter Hillmen from St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, given he had declared speaking fees and honorariums from Roche.

“We were surprised by the hyperbole in your editorial appraisal of the recent publication of the CLL8 study which did not, in our opinion, provide a balanced and considered review of the strengths and weaknesses of the study,” they wrote in their letter to The Lancet.

However, the Lancet has rejected the allegations, and authors of the research said they stood by its integrity and the benefits of the drug.

A spokesman for The Lancet, Tony Kirby, said the journal’s publication of the pieces was appropriate and adhered to its publication guidelines, which ask authors to declare financial and personal relationships with other people or organisations that could inappropriately influence their actions.

Meanwhile, Hillmen rejected the allegations about his comment article and said any such article could be criticised in this way, since “virtually all” authors reporting on many trials have links to drug companies.

“It is convention to disclose one’s potential conflicts, which I and the authors of the CLL8 manuscript have done and it is for others to decide how much, if any, this undermines the onclusions drawn,” he added. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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