Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Show Me The Data

Via Big Think, drug companies apparently illegally hide unfavorable results for their new drugs during clinical trials:

Shocking as it may seem, it is currently fairly standard practice for drugs companies to withhold clinical trials with negative results, allowing doctors to blindly prescribe drugs that don’t work or are even dangerous. In the United States, failing to publish clinical trials is punishable by a fine of $10,000 per day, but shockingly the fine has never actually been issued as Dr. Ben Goldacre explains in his editorial in PloS Medicine.

This is particularly unbelievable given that a recent study found that more than half of the clinical trials registered on clinicaltrials.gov within a given time period were never actually published (within the time period allowed by law). An earlier study, which found similar results, also demonstrated that even when the results are published, negative side effects and even serious adverse events are routinely missed out of the published version.

That’s pretty lousy. Also, if I’m a pharmaceutical company lawyer, I’m upping my medication if everyone else’s medication might be extra dangerous. That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

For an example of lawsuits that do happen when organizations don’t regulate and/or enforce misbehavior, look at my new favorite punching bag: police!

They get sued. A lot. They use fancy analytics to track and predict crime, and all the big data money can buy. But they apparently don’t turn their crystal ball inwards. Their own problems are a complete mystery to them:

For one study, Schwartz asked 140 law-enforcement agencies — including 70 of the biggest ones —  for information about police-misconduct cases. A common answer: We don’t know.

So, she asked the law departments, everybody. Which didn’t always help.

“Eighteen of the largest cities and counties,” she says, “and these are cities that include San Diego, New Orleans – counties like Harris County, Baltimore County – they reported that they had no records in any government agency or office reflecting how much they spent in lawsuits involving the police.”

Be sure to click through to the study for the explanation of how just a few cops get sued over and over but face no discipline despite costing taxpayers millions of dollars in civil lawsuit settlements. Thrilling!

Which in turn reminds me of the lack of institutional awareness around medical malpractice; the doctors who get repeatedly sued for malpractice completely misapprehend the reasons that they get sued.

The refrain in all three of those links is that you cannot manage what you cannot measure. The Food and Drug Administration is apparently not managing the mass abuse of clinical drug trials, which suggests they don’t keep track of companies. The police (and their attorneys) are not measuring how often they get sued, and so lawsuits about. Physicians aren’t managing their risks of malpractice because they don’t know why they get sued, which suggests a failure to … write it down and measure it.

Oh, and here’s a fourth one that deals with poor kids if you really want your heartstrings tugged upon.