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Glaxo's Avandia Leak: Who Really Broke Embargo?

GlaxoSmithKline's Avandia
AP
GlaxoSmithKline's Avandia

At 1 pm ET today the embargo was supposed to lift on an article in the scientific journal "Nature" that we got advanced word on early this morning. We were set to post the write-through about it at that time on our web site.

But then Sen. Chuck Grassley's office apparently broke the embargo by releasing this copy of a letter he sent to GlaxoSmithKline around 12:40ish and so, the story moved here and on the wires a bit earlier than expected. I hate when that happens. It sends us scrambling. I also wonder how/when/why Sen. Grassley and/or the Senate Finance Committee got the embargoed article.

I was struck by Dr. Haffner's candor in fessing up to the "Nature" reporter about his faux pas. But then I saw an even sexier quote that Stephanie Saul from "The New York Times" dug up for her story on the leak. Here's the excerpt from her piece at nytimes.com:

Dr. Haffner, who had been involved in a major clinical study of Avandia, called Adopt, that found the drug worked better at controlling blood sugar than two other common treatments, was quoted last year in the online medical publication theheart.org as critical of the publication of Dr. Nissen’s study and of editorials that supported it in two other journals.

“The three major medical journals are becoming more like British tabloid newspapers — all they lack is a bare-chested woman on page 3," Dr. Haffner was quoted as saying.

A medical journal peer-reviewer who leaks an embargoed study before it's published is a big no-no. If or when reporters break embargoes they and/or their news outlets are put in the penalty box with their embargoed information privileges revoked, at least for awhile. I wonder if the same rule applies to legislators and their staffs.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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