Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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The Original Scientific Preprint Revolutionaries Were Quashed by the Medical Journal Industry

The Original Scientific Preprint Revolutionaries Were Quashed by the Medical Journal Industry | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The movement to make biology papers freely available before they have been peer-reviewed, let alone published in a reputable journal, finally succeeded in 2013, when bioRxiv (pronounced bio-archive) was launched by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. But 50 years before, the National Institutes of Health tried something similar: distributing unpublished scientific papers, or preprints, to a handpicked group of leading researchers.


The effort was intended to speed the dissemination of potentially important advances, but it was met with such hostility from some eminent biologists and journals — one called the papers “shoddy merchandise” — that it was shut down after just six years, a historian reported recently in PLOS Biology:



In 1961, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began to circulate biological preprints in a forgotten experiment called the Information Exchange Groups (IEGs). This system eventually attracted over 3,600 participants and saw the production of over 2,500 different documents, but by 1967, it was effectively shut down following the refusal of journals to accept articles that had been circulated as preprints.


“It’s fascinating to see that the same things happened 50 years ago,” said bioRxiv co-founder Richard Sever, who had never heard of the earlier preprint effort (which, of course, used snail mail). “The business concerns of the journals, the scientists who warned about the terrible things that would happen if information that wasn’t peer-reviewed got out — that was very much what we experienced with bioRxiv.”


The long-forgotten NIH effort began in 1961, when an official named Errett Albritton, then 70, dreamed up “Information Exchange Groups.” They initially consisted of “leading investigators” in a narrowly defined field, such as “computer simulation of biological systems,” found Matthew Cobb, a scientist and historian at the University of Manchester, who stumbled on dusty documents about it in the archives of Cold Spring Harbor Lab.


Researchers sent in drafts of their soon-to-be-published (they hoped) papers, and the NIH made copies and mailed them to members of the relevant specialty group. The idea, as one supporter wrote, was to allow scientists “to be fully informed in record time of all important developments in the field.”


Not everyone saw it that way. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, told Albritton in a 1961 letter that “there is far too much careless and rapid communication already in every area of this field of study,” referring to genetics. “The idea of increasing it even in this semi-public manner fills me with horror.”


Further Reading:

  • “Medical Journals Serve as Big Pharma Drug-Marketing Platform: Study by COI ‘Enabler’”;
  • “The Privatization of Peer Review: #BigPharma Would Benefit”;
Pharma Guy's insight:

Does bypassing medical journal peer review fill you with "horror?" I think some pharma marketers may like the idea. But not the FDA, I hope!

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Emergent Hybrid Medical Conferences: Will Virtual Attendees Outnumber Physical Attendees?

Presentation first given at the 2015 Eyeforpharma Barcelona Conference; an update of a presentation given in 2013 on the emergent hybrid medical society physical/virtual conference format. Evidence of conference format disruption is presented based on the 2014 European Society of Cardiology Congress. The impact on the pharma industry is explored.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Starnes is referring to the emergence of the "virtual" medical conference, which he believes will soon be adopted in one form or another by all medical societies. Starnes predicts that virtual attendees of medical conferences will soon outnumber physical attendees. Read this Pharma Marketing News article: The Emerging Virtual Medical Conference - Opportunities for Pharma, HCPs and Patients

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Dressing Gown or Suit? How Docs Will Attend the Future Medical Conference

The format of medical society conferences has remained unchanged for over 100 years


But not for much longer…


What constitutes a ’ meeting’ today? It suggests that the way doctors once related was episodic and isolated. We would come, then we would go away. I m in, I m out. Now we re engaging, now we re not. Until we meet again. Now the meeting and the conversation never really end, and our engagement is increasingly continuous and VIRTUAL!

Pharma Guy's insight:

Also listen to this podcast: “The Emerging Virtual Medical Conference: Implications for Pharmacos, HCPs, and Patients”; and read this article: “The Emerging Virtual Medical Conference. Opportunities for Pharma, HCPs and Patients”;

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Journalists & Patients Banned from ESMO Rx Drug Discussions

Journalists & Patients Banned from ESMO Rx Drug Discussions | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

ESMO shares the disappointment of journalists, patient advocates and other non-prescribers for not being admitted to areas and activities where the promotion of prescription-only medicinal products takes place.

As an organisation working to disseminate knowledge in oncology, we would like to be able to offer every congress attendee full access to knowledge-sharing opportunities, which forms the foundation of our Congress philosophy.

As a respected organisation working with various oncology stakeholders, we have to abide by the regulations in the country where the Congress is being held, in this case Spain. ESMO has been legally advised that a Spanish national law (based on a 2001 EU Regulation) related to non-prescribers applies to medical congresses organised in Spain and we need to be  compliant with it .

The following individuals may not access the spaces of the ESMO Congress where promotion of prescription-only or funded medicinal products or medical devices takes place:

  • Patients
  • Patient advocates
  • Students
  • Nurses
  • Journalists
Pharma Guy's insight:

ESMO says: "It is expressly prohibited to advertise: (a) prescription-only medicinal products, (b) medicinal products funded by the Spanish Health National System; and (c) psychotropic substances, to individuals other than to healthcare professionals qualified to prescribe -or supply- medicinal products."

Does this apply to journalists?! Are satellite symposia considered "advertising?" 

I'm no expert in Spanish drug promotion regulations and laws, but this just seems silly. Patient empowerment means access to medical information from all sources, including pharma-sponsored symposia at medical conferences. At least qualified journalists should have access.

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