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February 21, 2007
CMPI Conference: Panel on Media Coverage
Well, I'm sitting in the audience now at the CMPI conference. My panel was the first of the day, and was pretty lively. Moderated by Rob Pollock of the Wall Street Journal, it featured Ed Silverman of the Newark Star-Ledger (and now of the very useful Pharmalot, Paul Coplan (who does risk managment at Wyeth), Tim Hunt (public affairs at Biogen-Idec), and Paul Seligman (safety policy at the FDA), and Diedtra Henderson of the Boston Globe.
Vioxx was a big point of discussion, as an example of media reporting on medical and pharma issues. There was a noticeable split between the reporters on the panel and the pharma people on this - the discussion was civil, but you could see the differences in opinion on how well the issue had been covered. With Biogen represented, the Tysabri withdrawal (and return) was also a big topic.
I suppose the main point I'd make in reference to that split came when Ed Silverman mentioned that a good thing that came out of the Vioxx coverage was that it started debate, and that that was always a good thing. I agreed with him, up to a point, adding, though, that I thought that informed debate was more useful. My problem with much of the Vioxx coverage was (as I said about that Michael Crichton op-ed the other day) that it made people feel as if they'd been informed when they hadn't been.
There was general agreement that risk/reward (especially absolute risk versus relative risk) was a key concept in reporting these things, but that it could be difficult to get across to a general readership. The other agreement was the companies should try to be as open as possible about clinical data and adverse events, with (naturally) different ideas about where the cutoff of possibility would fall.
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