Friday, July 19, 2013

Breaking the Seal on Drug Research

Peter Doshi walked across the campus of Johns Hopkins University in a rumpled polo shirt and stonewashed jeans, a backpack slung over one shoulder. An unremarkable presence on a campus filled with backpack-toters, he is 32, and not sure where he’ll be working come August, when his postdoctoral fellowship ends. And yet, even without a medical degree, he is one of the most influential voices in medical research today. Dr. Doshi’s renown comes not from solving the puzzles of cancer or discovering the next blockbuster drug, but from pushing the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies to open their records to outsiders in an effort to better understand the benefits and potential harms of the drugs that billions of people take every day. Together with a band of far-flung researchers and activists, he is trying to unearth data from clinical trials—complex studies that last for years and often involve thousands of patients across many countries—and make it public. The current system, the activists say, is one in which the meager details of clinical trials published in medical journals, often by authors with financial ties to the companies whose drugs they are writing about, is insufficient to the point of being misleading. more

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