This sort of thing is not news to those of us who follow big pharma and its myriad methods of corruption, but this case has brought the issue to the forefront. Here is an excerpt from a good article in today’s Guardian:
Another pharmaceutical giant has settled a big compensation claim. So why are they allowed to go on misleading the public…
…In trial 15, commissioned by AstraZeneca, patients with schizophrenia who were in remission were randomly assigned to receive either AstraZeneca’s quetiapine, or a cheap, old-fashioned drug called haloperidol. After a year, the patients on Seroquel were doing worse: they had more relapses and worse ratings on various symptom scales. These negative findings were left unpublished: to use Tumas’s word, they were “buried”.
But in among all these important negative findings, on a few measures of “cognitive functioning” – an attention task, a verbal memory test – Seroquel did better. This finding alone was published in a research paper in 2002. AstraZeneca kept quiet about the fact that patients on Seroquel had worse outcomes for schizophrenia. The research paper went on to become a highly influential piece of work, cited by more than 100 academic research papers. Many researchers can only dream of publishing such a well cited piece of work.
Trial 15 also found that patients on Seroquel gained, on average, 5kg in weight over a year. This put them at increased risk of diabetes, which is what AstraZeneca is now paying to settle on (and in any case, a 5kg weight gain is a serious side-effect in itself).