Pharma wants its money back if Academic Science proves to be tosh

Will the ProfG’s  be quaking in their boots as the Charcot 1 Project flopped and Merck (American version) sunk money into their black hole of clinical trials. Now Merck are saying they want their money back when academic science is not reporducible, based on this recent article which I have swiped (CLICK

If academic discoveries turn out to be wrong, one drug company wants its money back……

That’s the tough-minded proposal floated by the chief medical officer of Merck & Co as a way to fix the “reproducibility crisis,” of published scientific reports turn out to be incorrect……

Michael Rosenblatt, Merck’s executive vice president and chief medical officer, said bad results from academic labs caused pharmaceutical companies to waste millions and “threatens the entire biomedical research enterprise.”……………..

It seems that Pharma have now realised that there is a load of rubbish that is published in the Science literature…one suspects much of the Pop Science that appears in the top Science rags falls into this catagegory, as we see it day in day out. 

However, the MDs take pride in the fact that our data is reproducible and have been surprised when people have come up to us to say that they can reproduce our work..Isn’t this the case for all work? 

Well clearly not and there is a load of guff published, which has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss Cheese.

Pharma, like academia, have the lemming behaviour and follow the pack…often over the edge of a cliff. A few minutes thinking may save them from the drop.

Wrong results are also a problem for translational research—the kind drug companies do when they try to turn biological discoveries into actual medicines……..

Yep many results won’t translate to a different lab, let alone to a human and it is often easy to see why…there is no Quality control in the published work. If you spot this thenyou may save a few bob

Since companies don’t want their cash draining down ratholes…..

So why send millions courting clinicians?

 Merck are among the few organizations that have taken the trouble to double check results.

As part of the due diligance process when they acquire academic science, companies will double check results, yes it wastes money.

The key is also to have a lab doing the work that is dependable using a system that works, where there is no vested interest in the result 

I have seen pharma data from the 9-5ers where the academic lab has not checked whats happening at the weekend. These results are largely pants as they miss key information

As long as the experiment has quality control so it is believeable, I can live with the result even if it doesn’t go the way I wanted it to go. A negative result can be as informative as a positive result but it takes longer to work out, why a negative result was negative.

In the case of the Canbex, as they could not go to any other lab in the world to get our stuff reproduced, they came and stood over us and watched us repeat our earlier work.

“The results aren’t pretty. Back in 2012, the biotechnology company Amgen dropped a bomb on academic science when it said it found only six of 53 “landmark” cancer papers stood up to efforts to reproduce the results of promising new research. Other studies that drug companies say can’t be replicated include one that found a cancer drug might treat Alzheimer’s and another that showed a particular gene was linked to diabetes in mice.”

Maybe it is time that there was PloS Negative results:-) and those failed experiments can all be published and it would quickly show that the original research was wrong

We did some stuff on a Nature paper that did not work. It turns out that at least six labs did the same. 

However, it is not good for your career to be spending all you time saying that the stuff published by the Science semi-god is built on quick sand especially if you are an American junior researcher trying to reproduce an Amercian Demi-God who sits on all the grant panels. 

When I was a young researcher..I was once warned by one such Amercian demi-god “Don’t get into doing these experiments because we are bigger than you” My response was “we had done them already and the the research idea didn’t work”. This was indeed what turned out to be the case, but it took a clinical trial to flop for this to be realised by the masses…but it is clear that for some people “S**t don’t stick” and there are alot of teflon men and women in Science:-)
Rosenblatt says the costs of repeating wrong research are adding up. He says on average it takes “approximately two to six scientific personnel one to two years of work in an industry laboratory” to try to reproduce original experiments at an average cost of $500,000 to $2 million.
They must be paying their staff too much or the contract research organisation they are using are too expensive:-(
In his editorial, published in Science Translational Medicine, Merck’s medical chief paints a dire picture:
As the public, government, and private funders of research comprehend the extent of the problem, trust in the scientific enterprise erodes, and confidence in the ability of the scientific community to address this problem wanes. In addition, there is considerable potential for reputational damage to scientists, universities, and entire fields (for example, cancer biology, genomics, and psychology). 
Why is science wrong so often? Merck lists the usual suspects: pressure to publish and win grants, careerism, poor training of students, and journals that don’t review reports rigorously enough.
It is true that the system is geared to rewarding those publishing in the top journals in terms of grants and jobs and the pressure comes from Governments. The Research Assessment Exercises in UK put pressure on Universities (who get their money based on performance) who can then put pressure on their staff to publish, publish, publish 
Instead of trying to fix cultural problems in labs or passing new regulations, Merck thinks some punitive economic incentives are in order, specifically, a “full or partial money-back guarantee.” That is, if research that drug companies pay for turns out to be wrong, universities would have to give back the funding they got. Merck thinks this will put the pressure right where it belongs, on the scientists.
This is not an incentive surely it is a punishment, but an uninforcable punishment. I publish something and Merck goes away and does it badly and I then have to pay them…yer right.

I have a good example when pharma was doing some EAE work and they could not get it to work.  We had not been asked by them to supply protocols and had been paying another lab for advice.

They made up their own protocol based on what they thought we were doing. We swopped our material used to induce EAE, ours worked in our mice ours worked in their mice, their’s didn;t work in their mice and didn’t work in our mice…..If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,,but people will tinker…The company lab was closed down
However if companies give millions to universities to develop their patents, then do they have a point? 

However, I have been saying that clinicans destroy good ideas by bad trials…so it is not all bad science. 

But I do know that pharma do repeat stuff….maybe they should publish it and then the demi-gods would not be see to be such demi gods and then the lemmings may stop following them.
It’s unlikely that universities will jump at Merck’s offer for more accountability. That’s because they are set up to collect R&D money, not return it. If this became a requirement it would stop [university-industry] research in its tracks,” says David Winwood, a business development executive at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Few if any public schools would have either the (financial) capacity or, I suspect, the legal authority, to enter into such an agreement.”
Buyer beware
Drug companies aren’t saints, either. Suppressing and massaging negative results from drug trials isn’t uncommon and it’s a lot more likely to harm patients than bungled academic research….. 
The other problem with Merck’s proposal to universities is it would open a kind of Pandora’s box of accountability…..companies paid for $4.6 billion in “sponsored” research at U.S. universities, hospitals, and research centers in 2014. The federal (US) government, on the other hand, spent $37.9 billion. 
So is most taxpayer-funded research wrong, too? 
Read papers… I have shown you how to read EAE papers and if they have no quality control in  hem, you can be have a fair guess that they will turn out to be mushroom food and non-reproducible. You will be abe to spot some stuff on the blog

It is funny that some people forget and can’t even repeat their own published work so if that isn’t based on quick sand I don’t know what is.

Likewise it is a shame that companies don’t think enough but the lemming mentality prevails and it is clear that some companies that have bought a load of turkies
Maybe it’s taxpayers, not Merck, who should get a check(Cheque) in the mail.
Light touch paper and stand back..remember don’t kill the messenger

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  • Yes the old truism "publish or perish" is alive and well and the cronyism that ensues keep some in posh jobs with lucrative salaries and pensions. What good is a c.v. without high powered journals listed? As you mentioned, in the fields with enormous money handed out for research such as cancer, there are probably many poorly designed and frivolous studies for the few that are credible. In the MS realm look at the number of EAE papers that have been published in the last 20 years. Of course there are many important drug discoveries that have been based on this model but also many that were shakey from the get go. I remember browsing through journals such as Neurology and the Journal of Neuroinnflammation 20 years ago and reading the abundance of papers on MS, I felt that surely this disease didn't stand a chance of not being cured in the near future. But here we are in 2016 without a clue on the cause. Don't get me wrong, the inflammatory component of MS has benefitted greatly from EAE work and hopefully induction therapies such as HSCT-BM and Alemtuzumab are the answer….time will tell.

    • I think this is a great forum.! But in order to be useful for the entire community of MS doctors and patients, we should identify ourselves. So our comments can become actionable proposals rather than academic whining. This is silly!
      AMSN. Academic MS neurologist.

  • Maybe I have to take back the bit about reproducibility as we have reported numerous times that cannabinoids do not have immunosuppressive effects at sensible doses. Papers are published with regular frequency saying the opposite. The key in s sensible dose water is immunosuppressive as would be toothpaste if you take enough. If cannabinoids were so immunosuppressive why would people with AIDS use cannabis why would it not be found in clinical trials.
    Time will be on our side I suspect

    • Water can also be bad bad bad.

      You will LOVE this one Mouse Doc. You've got fire! I like that!

      Where I live on Lake Ontario USA we get lots of snow and sometimes ghastly amounts of rain on occasion. Deluge heavy rain. People here think storm sewers and waste sewers are different. There is one sewer system.

      When too much melt or rain happens there are these GIANT well hidden gates. They open up and BAM, bazillions of gallons of water and all things toilet, sink etc. come flooding out into the Genesee River and two local bays… All zooming into the lake. Then the warnings come forth, "No swimming due to high bacteria levels". Never ever describing those.

      The fact children are playing on the beach or people recreating at any point in time??? Sand, feces and any number of other items is JUST WHAT I always DREAMED I should lay my bath towels upon.

      The deluge of water coming out these gates is so massive that it tears apart all materials for the most part. Nice yes?

      Our water coming from our sinks has pretty significant chlorine added. Sinks should probably be sold with a "Warning… Do not use bleach as chlorine and bleach dont mix well. Take that back, the do mix well for the right purpose LOL".

      As towards marijuana/CBD's, yep… I see the papers all the time. We get emails pretty frequently about "Why dont you cover this!". We dont cover it because there are its really difficult to find substantiation to statements made. I told one person who CONSTANTLY was after us on it, "The only immunosuppressive characteristics proven are sleeping and wanting to eat. If the patient were to eat the proper foods they may well have an immunosuppressive impact"… Ooops. He just wouldnt stop! Like weed can cure anything! Anything at all!

      Now they want legalize in the USA. A population that for the most part considers itself well informed on all issues from 27 second news briefs on topics! Legalization will result in a new media reporting paradigm.

      Todays news… Our top story today is, "You exist." Our second top story today is, "Tree's look cool.", Our feature towards employment, "Bathing might result in a employment: study shows soap matters"… Our closing feature is a human interest request, "Please email pictures of clouds and what you think the look like to the news desk."

    • Marijuana-asperin of the 21st centurary!

      I went to a cannabinoid research meeting once an it was full of growers who would say it works for every thing…I asked for their evidence and the answer was they had tried it on themselves…I've stopped going to these meetings

    • I've spoken to several neuro's here since medicinal marijuana usage has passed in NY State USA. In fact, one of Eastman Kodak's former buildings is to be used as a growing center since Kodak now is literally a shell of itself.

      Many here are really wary about prescribing it at all. That want see CBD's w/o THC. I have no doubts there are medicinal benefits just as there are health benefits to many substances. Will good outweigh bad? Time tells (sometimes?).

      Legalization for recreational use just makes no sense at all from a societal aspect. Another area where I am hit with this is "Look at the Netherlands! Its been legal there!!!!"

      Yes, lets do that.

      1. Strains that are high in THC are considered a hard drug and prosecuted as such.

      2. The Netherlands is now after 30+ years, scant in human generational time, seeking to ban it completely due to the results on society.

      3. People who need to use mind altering substances on a regular basis as a recreational sort of thing? Probably just as with alcohol probably points to other life issues that are best addressed than not? I dont have an issue with what might be called "sensible recreation". I have a glass of wine now and again such as the holidays where I am not driving etc. But sensible use cannot be controlled and everyone I have ever known who uses marijuana thinks they do so sensibly and I cannot recall recreationally one that has. I am sure many do and more than likely survey says, "More often do not".

      4. Intellectually… Its been said that there is long term loss of short term memory. This just makes sense as is the case with many a psychoactive compound. Opiate based meds are used on the streets. Why? So people get "high". That is a recreational use. They are more addictive? Than what, marijuana, alcohol? People get much more high on opiate abuse? So should there now be a legal amount of recreational opiate consumption or other hardened drugs? Perhaps less hardened editions? "I like my coffee creamer to have a little bit of opiate with it".

      Drawing these lines are lines that probably should not be drawn.

      4. Productivity, one of the things noted in the Netherlands. It can be quite destructive.

      I can go on… But the fact is after 30+ years the Netherlands are now looking at banning cannabis for recreational use. And! Now the US is looking at it for recreational use!!! Why?

      People here say, "Well tax base money!!!". I dont see a single legislator saying, "Yes. Tax base so everyone's taxes will be lowered in kind w/ tax revenues brought in." Uh Uh.

      There may well be more significant reason. Lets make sure that more of the future generations get significantly less connected in as "High sheep" are much more easily led to slaughter than those not.

      I try and make sense of it. For countless years the Federal Gov. here very very very against recreational use. OK, States pass things into law. But for the Federal Gov. to do so and for so many many years be so highly against it, something stinks and its not the weed.

  • I agree it's ridiculous that Merck wants refunds for what they consider unreliable published data (although I assume it's because the work was funded by them).

    "it is a shame that companies don't think enough but the lemming mentality prevails"

    I think you'll find that all research groups (industry and academic) will try to validate "novel and interesting" science themselves before investing time and money into incorporating that information into their own research or technological ideas.

    All scientists suffer from bad science, academic and pharma alike. Which is worse? Taxpayers and charity money wasted on verifying crap experiments? Or private investors?

  • Many need to be sacked and exposed with information thats being monitored . Everyone involved will all be publicly named

  • Intentionally skewed results of research is of course counterproductive on all ends. Of course, Pharma would say, "Except in marketing". Thats not a cheap shot, all marketing for the most part is presentation.

    Myrbetriq has a animated bladder walking around with people who never says a word but appears quite concerned most of the time. We never see him in the bathroom with a smile. Sad. I think someone should establish a not for profit foundation to represent commercially animated organs, pathogens and more from commercial exploitation. That poor glump of putrefied mucus in Mucinex commercials never has a good day!

    Science by nature often circumvents itself as more is learned. Its a bottom up learning experience in results yet may well be top down, bottom up or both in seeking answers.

    Merck is in the business of medical science and products. This is the lay of the land. If its not acceptable because of losses they may not be able to write off as losses then perhaps producing lawn signs is a better choice for them.

    Better monitoring of research is a good idea but at the sametime same can be said of marketing.

    By Merck's method of thinking then patients who do not get stated results "on the dime" or where class action's occur should require no fights. Just pay the people back. Right?



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