Publishing negative data is harder than it seems

We're always glad to hear from readers, even if they're taking exception to something I wrote. Jennie Mather, PhD, the founder, CSO and president of Raven Biotechnologies, had this to say about yesterday's piece on drug research studies and the bias toward positive data. 

"I am a regular reader of FierceBiotech and usually find that you maintain a balanced presentation in spite of the brevity of your pieces. However, I must comment on your piece on "Positive data more likely to find it's way to the public" in yesterday's issue.

As someone who spent many years heading an academic research lab, as well as working in both research and development in two biotech companies, I can state that the area of publishing negative findings is one where both the publishing industry and pharma reinforce each other's biases. I have tried on several occasions to publish negative data only to have it returned, sometimes without review, with the statement that it is "only negative data" (I have published more than 150 articles so I have experience with the system). I think attributing the lack of such publications to "developers gaming the system with such indifference to the scientific pursuit of the truth" is a vast oversimplification.

I agree that negative clinical trial data should be in the public domain but it will take more than just the drug/biotech companies to make it happen. Perhaps the FDA could make publication of all clinical trial results a condition of approval of the protocol, but they then need to find a journal or journals that will guarantee publication of these results even when they are negative."

Got a comment? Send it in. - John Carroll

P.S. FierceBiotech will not be published this coming Monday in observance of the holiday. We will return on Tuesday, January 22.