The business media on drugs
by Chris Roush
Sidney Taurel, the CEO of drug company Eli Lilly, wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday accusing the media of sloppy reporting in covering his industry, and CNBC‘s Mike Huckman, who covers the industry, promptly responded.
The issue is media coverage of Eli Lilly’s experimental blood thinner. Testing was recently halted on the drug.
Taurel wrote, “The media entered a feeding frenzy, catered by commentators on Wall Street and elsewhere who speculated that prasugrel posed broad risks and had probably failed its major trial. Our stock began its trip south and, more seriously, some doctors and patients were left with false impressions.”
Later, he added, “For the media, if I may be so bold: Don’t trade in leaks and rumors where scientific data are concerned. 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.”
Huckman responded, “I think Taurel is shooting the messenger. Lilly had to know that the original story about the halted clinical trials was going to break. And, if so, it had a golden opportunity to try to get out in front of it and do some spin control. For example, offer up high-level executives to reporters immediately. Put out a more detailed statement than the one it released. The company might argue that its hands were tied because of the pending embargo on the larger clinical trial results which were soon due to be presented at the American Heart Association meeting and published in ‘The New England Journal of Medicine.’
“But I suspect that given the extraordinary circumstances–the news of the two smaller studies being halted and the steep $6 billion decline in LLY’s market value because of it–that the company might have been able to convince AHA and/or NEJM to loosen up a little and let its officials discuss at least some of the results in an open forum, pre-embargo.”