Feature Interview

Aubrey Blumsohn: Academic who took on industry

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b5293 (Published 15 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5293
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. 1BMJ
  1. ClareDyer{at}aol.com

    Aubrey Blumsohn forfeited his job after going public with concerns about access to Procter and Gamble’s research data on the osteoporosis drug risedronate. Clare Dyer talks to him about his experience

    “Scientists since Galileo have realised you can’t be a scientist without data,” observes Aubrey Blumsohn. It seems a statement of the obvious, but he welcomes the General Medical Council’s recognition in the case of Richard Eastell, the former colleague whom he reported to the GMC, that “data” mean raw data, not summary data produced by a drug company’s in-house statistician.1 2

    That recognition, he believes, vindicates the stand he took when he fought US based Procter and Gamble (P&G) Pharmaceuticals, which refused him access to the raw data for research Professor Eastell and he were leading on the company’s osteoporosis drug risedronate between 2002 and 2005. His determination eventually forced the company to release the data in 2006, but it cost him his job as senior lecturer in metabolic bone medicine at Sheffield University and led him to abandon his career as a clinical researcher.

    The GMC cleared Eastell, director of the bone metabolism research unit at Sheffield University, of dishonesty and misconduct but found that he had failed to correct before publication an untrue statement that all the authors in an earlier study he led, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research in 2003, “had full access to the data and analyses.”3 That research was also for P&G and on an overlapping set of data from the same 1990s clinical trials as Blumsohn’s work.

    The GMC panel concluded that there was an “evolving understanding of access to data” in 2002 when the statement was added to the research paper by a P&G medical writer, but held that “data” meant raw data and therefore that …

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