Luke Timmerman of Xconomy recently wrote an excellent article where he explained why Twitter matters now in biotech, and why executives can’t ignore it anymore. In the article, Luke explains his initial hesitation in using the social media tool by saying, “it seemed like a good way to fragment my attention span into a million little pieces by consuming gossip and trivia, diluting the focus needed to produce in-depth biotech news and feature stories on tight deadlines.” Luke then goes on to admit that he was wrong stating, “wrong, wrong, wrong… I do still have some concerns about what real-time connectivity is doing to humanity… I’ve come around to the idea that Twitter, used wisely, has potential to be a great force for good in biotech.”
Check out Luke’s article in Xconomy in its entirety to read his analysis of Twitter and its use in the biotechnology industry.
In April of 2011, Scott Harkonen, former CEO of InterMune, was sentenced to three years of probation, six months of home confinement and fined $20,000 for issuing a misleading 2002 company press release about the drug Actimmune. The charge was wire fraud, and prosecutors wanted a 10 year sentence. The judge ruling over the case noted that the government had “no evidence whatsoever that the press release had caused any loss or any harm to anyone” and therefore chose a lighter sentencing.
The central issue lies around the press release’s promotional use of their drug Actimmune for an off label use based on a retrospective review of data from a 2002 FDA trial. The trail was designed to evaluate the drug as a possible treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis but it didn’t meet its primary goal: showing that the drug slowed progression of lung fibrosis. However, the results did suggest that patients with “mild to moderate” fibrosis lived longer. The analysis that led to this conclusion was nonetheless “retrospective”, meaning statisticians had selectively mined the data to find the benefit.
Since the study wasn’t designed to test the drug’s efficacy in mild patients, the finding wasn’t solid enough to meet the FDA’s standards. When Dr. Harkonen issued a press release publicizing the study’s findings he committed the crime of wire fraud in the eyes of the Justice Department.
Could there be a message here for CEOs of small biotech companies?
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