Mystery Question-er On Merck & Schering-Plough's Vytorin


Yesterday while covering the press conference about the new study on Merck and Schering-Plough's Vytorin I quoted the lead researcher, Dr. Terje Pedersen of Ulleval University Hospital in Oslo, Norway, who said--and this is a direct quote: "However, we had a disturbing finding when we looked at safety."

He was referring specifically to the increased incidence of cancer among the patients who took Vytorin.

When I got back to my desk and continued to watch the satellite feed of the event in London, I was surprised to hear the facilitator pose this question: "One press outlet is reporting that the cancer risk is a disturbing finding. Is that how Professor Peto would characterize it?"

Peto is the cancer epidemiologist who the lead investigator recruited to take a look at the cancer numbers. The facilitator, who is essentially a traffic cop for reporter questions coming in over the phone, via email and from the room did not identify the name of the "reporter" who sent the question or his/her affiliation. That is typically de rigueur. I also wonder what reporter was watching the satellite feed or listening to the press conference over the phone while also closely monitoring CNBC's coverage. I consider myself a pretty good multi-tasker, but that person I want to meet.

So, what was Professor Peto's answer? He replied: "No, I think that there is no credible evidence of any adverse effect. That's what we said in our report to regulatory agencies and I think that the press statement you just read out, um, this is describing Professor Pedersen's own reaction when he saw his own data. But the reaction to the currently available data is quite different. He was describing what his reaction was when he first saw his own data in isolation from anything else. Now that we have the totality of the evidence from the three (clinical) trials the conclusion that it is disturbing is no longer justified."

And then Professor Pedersen chimed in with: "I fully agree with that."

I don't know who sent in that question. I can tell you that during my coverage throughout the afternoon yesterday, I received several emails from spokespeople at Merck and Schering-Ploughwho were clearly monitoring my reporting, which is part of their job.

I know that there are other pharma reporters out there who regularly or occasionally read this blog, so if you want to claim ownership of the question, please let me know:

Questions? Comments?