In response to irate criticism, the European Association for the Study of the Liver has changed the way clinical trial results will be released at its closely watched annual meeting in Barcelona next month. The medical society will release summaries of most studies online April 4, two weeks before the five-day conference begin on April 18.
Originally, EASL planned to make the summaries available online this coming Thursday, but only to EASL members and those who register for the conference, which include hedge fund and mutual fund portfolio managers, and Wall Street analysts. However, EASL was not going to make the documents available simultaneously to the public.
"That means a select group of investors will have access to potentially stock-moving clinical data while a majority of investors will be kept in the dark," wrote Adam Feuerstein of The Street, earlier this week, in which he called the disclosure policy a "sucker's bet" (see here). Registered media would have been granted early access, but barred from coverage until the April 18 kick-off due to an embargo.
The annual EASL gathering is a big event for the pharmaceutical industry this year, given the race among drugmakers to develop and market the next big treatment for hepatitis C, in particular. Among those releasing data will be Merck, Gilead Sciences, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Idenix Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
In its about face, EASL now says its press office will select certain studies that will not be released until actual presentation at the conference, although which studies is not clear. But EASL insists these studies will not be made available in advance to participants before its embargo is lifted.
"EASL is making these changes in light of recent criticism of its proposed policy, which suggests that 'selective distribution' of officially accepted clinical data in advance of the Congress would make our proposed embargo policy untenable," the society says in a statement. "EASL accepts that we must address this issue, and we acknowledge the efforts of several individuals to draw this to our attention."
This is the second consecutive year, by the way, in which EASL and its antiquated disclosure policy has caused a ruckus. Last year, the society attempted to pursue the same policy that drew protests this week, but with the added twist of releasing some data on the Internet while insisting that a media embargo was, nonetheless, still in force. That illogical edict was quickly disregarded (back story).
Hat tip to the WSJ Health blog