In recent years, drugs have gained FDA approval for Disease –Modifying treatment. MS experts are usually cited in the reports of the studies and their findings. In fact it seems that these Multiple Sclerosis experts are everywhere. But at the same time they are mostly anonymous. Every new study or trial needs an “expert” to lend credibility. But how often is the credibility of these MS experts really looked into.
Some recent drugs with brand names like Avonex, Rebif, Copaxone, and Tysabri have burst on the scene with varying results. The efficacy rates are not generally questioned, but perhaps the Multiple Sclerosis experts cited in the efficacy studies should be scrutinized.
The average cost of these new drugs to the patient is now approaching $3000 monthly. Yes – per month! Many people don’t earn that much money monthly, let alone have an extra $3000 available to pay prescription costs. In large part the cost is picked up eventually by the taxpayer. But you can do the math and see that somebody is making a lot of money. It is time to take a look at who it is, beyond just the manufacturers.
Perhaps more important is who the MS experts are that are quoted in studies dismissing some of the more promising alternative therapies
Take for example the recent excitement in the MS patient community over the CCSVI. It’s experimental and not allowed in the U.S. It’s used for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency – or CCSVI. And people are traveling thousands of miles to receive it, because it seems to work. But a study published in the Annals of Neurology dismissing it as not useful. The MS experts authoring the article include:
- Claudio Baracchini MD
- Paola Perini MD
- Massimiliano Calabrese MD
- Francesco Causin MD
- Francesca Rinaldi MD
- Paolo Gallo MD, PhD
The article itself, hoping to lose the reader in a mumbo jumbo of long names, big words, and fine print reveals these conflicts of interests:
Doctor #1 was compensated for being a board member and for giving expert testimony by Pfizer, Guidotti, Sanofi-Aventis, and Novartis.
Doctor #3 has been a board member of Merk-Serono, Sanofi-Aventis, and Bayer-Shering. He was a paid consultant for Merk-Serono and Sanofi-Aventis, and had travel expenses paid for by Biogen-Dompé Italy, Merk-Serono, Sanofi-Aventis, and Bayer-Shering.
Doctor #6 has been a board member of Novartis, Biogen-Elan, Merk-Serono, Sanofi-Aventis, and Bayer-Shering. He has been a paid consultant for Biogen-Elan, Sanofi-Aventis, and Bayer-Shering; has given expert testimony for Biogen-Dompé Italy, Sanofi-Aventis, and Merk-Serono.
Doctor #2 has had travel expenses and accommodations paid for by Sanofi-Aventis, Biogen-Dompé Italy, and Merk-Serono.
The same companies that will lose if alternative treatments prove successful
These MS Experts may well be very knowledgeable in their field. In fact, they probably are! But wouldn’t it seem more ethical if the same companies who stand to lose billions if an inexpensive alternative treatment proves worthy didn’t have the experts that are disproving the treatment on the payroll in one way or another. There are plenty of experts in Multiple Sclerosis who are not also on the drug manufacturer’s payroll. This is not to say their findings are not accurate. But wouldn’t it add more credibility if the conflict didn’t exist. And, if when the conflicts of interests are listed at the end of the study, the doctors weren’t listed by initials only – leaving it up to others to dig into the details to find out their complete names?