November 29th, 2007
OK. I’ve been sick for the past week — I mean really sick. And I can’t seem to shake it. High fever, aches, pains and chills have now morphed into coughing attacks, shortness of breath and a nasty sore throat.
I know it’s no excuse, but perhaps that’s why I missed the fascinating op-ed in Tuesday’s WSJ from Eli Lilly CEO Sydney Taurel that examined media coverage of that company’s decision to halt clinical trials of its experimental drug prasugrel.
Recently, I was chatting with some of my friends in our pharmaceuticals business about how all too often the press fails to provide context and important details about study findings such as the design of clinical studies or the statistical significance of clinical trial results. The result, unfortunately, can be coverage that confuses patients and physicians alike — creating concern or, sometimes, premature optimism.
That’s perhaps why I thought the following passage from Tuesday’s op-ed which provided some advice to reporters was right on target:
Damage to public understanding is hard to repair after it’s been done. Wait for real numbers, and take the time to explain statistics and benefit-risk analysis, which cannot be conveyed in sound bites alone. And for would-be pundits: If you have not had firsthand exposure to the scientific results or specialized knowledge under discussion, then qualify your comments if you must make them at all.