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European Medical Group Changes Drug Data-Release Policy After Criticism

03/22/2012 | 12:28pm US/Eastern
   By Peter Loftus 

A European medical society has changed its plans for releasing results of clinical studies of liver-disease therapies after some critics said the original plan would have amounted to selective disclosure to certain investors.

The studies are expected to include potentially market-moving results of trials involving hepatitis C drugs in development at Abbott Laboratories (>> Abbott Laboratories), Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (>> Bristol Myers Squibb Co.) and Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD).

The European Association for the Study of the Liver now plans to publicly release summaries of most of the studies online April 4, two weeks ahead of the association's International Liver Congress meeting in Barcelona.

Under the new policy, certain studies selected to be highlighted by EASL's press office won't be made available publicly until the date and time of their presentation at the conference, which runs April 18-22. EASL didn't say which studies will be selected. However, EASL said they won't be made available in advance to non-media conference participants before the embargoes lift.

Previously, EASL had planned to make the summaries available online Thursday, but only accessible to EASL members and those registered for the conference, which includes analysts and investors. EASL also previously planned to prohibit media registered to attend the conference from reporting on the summaries until the conference.

Critics of the policy, including TheStreet.com reporter Adam Feuerstein, said the original plans amounted to selective disclosure by providing material information to people who paid to attend the conference, while unfairly leaving others in the dark.

"EASL is making these changes in light of recent criticism of its proposed policy, which suggests that 'selective distribution' of officially accepted clinical data in advance of the Congress would make our proposed embargo policy untenable," EASL said in a written statement Thursday.

The presentation of drug data at medical meetings has long posed a conundrum for companies and investors. Some conferences have made changes in their policies to address concerns.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, for instance, used to distribute study summaries to participants at its annual meeting weeks ahead of the conference, but prohibit media from reporting the contents until the conference.

ASCO has since changed its policy so that now most summaries are posted publicly online a few weeks before the annual scientific meeting, while certain featured studies aren't publicly disclosed until the meeting.

Scott Gottlieb, a physician and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has criticized certain medical meeting embargo policies, said EASL did the right thing.

"I think the days of conferences engaging in selective release of important study results are probably over," he said. "ASCO yielded to this truth, EASL did, and I suspect other major conferences will be that much more reluctant to now buck these precedents."

-By Peter Loftus, Dow Jones Newswires; +1-215-982-5581; peter.loftus@dowjones.com

Stocks mentioned in the article : Abbott Laboratories, Bristol Myers Squibb Co.
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