The biggest story at the American College of Cardiology meeting last week was the missing story. As reported here and just about everywhere else, the PREVAIL trial, probably the most-anticipated late-breaker of the meeting, was pulled from the program at the last minute by the ACC leadership after Boston Scientific broke the embargo by issuing a press release several hours before the scheduled presentation.
To understand this event we first need to know what happened in the week before the ACC. And there’s a major gap in the story that has not come out before that I think holds the key to a full understanding of the story.
More than a week before the scheduled presentation I received an email invitation from a PR firm representing Boston Scientific:
“If you have any interest in speaking about the trial under embargo with Dr. Ken Stein, chief medical officer, Cardiac Rhythm Management, Boston Scientific, I have a few slivers of availability early next week. As you know, the embargo lifts at the time of presentation and I’ll need written confirmation of your embargo agreement.”
Now I’ve been down this road before, as some of you may recall. Several years ago I was offered embargoed access to data from an important upcoming trial by Medtronic (suggesting that this is a systemic problem) under the condition that I agree to a briefing from a trial investigator. I told the company that I would respect the embargo but that I wanted to review the data on my own and that I would get back to them if I had any questions. Their response: no briefing, no data.
Here’s the problem in both cases: forcibly linking access to the trial data with a company-arranged briefing is an egregious perversion of the embargo system.