On Tuesday morning the members of the Data Monitoring Committee of Orexigen’s Light study began a planned meeting in a hotel in Chicago. They had no way of knowing that in a few hours their routine duties would be completely interrupted by the news that data from the trial– which they thought was known only to them and a very few other people within the company and the FDA– had been revealed to the world by Orexigen. When the news sank in the meeting broke into a scene of high drama and emotion. “I’ve never seen anything like this in 20 years,” said one participant. At one point, I’ve been told, the DMC members were reading my initial story about the data release on a monitor in the meeting room.
The disclosure of the data unleashed a firestorm of criticism directed at Orexigen but also a dramatic 40% increase in the company’s stock, adding about $400 million to Orexigen’s market capitalization. But some believe that despite the short term gain ultimately there may be important negative consequences for the company and its leaders. Certainly the company hasn’t made any friends this week at the FDA or among the doctors and statisticians who perform clinical trials.
The Tuesday meeting was extraordinarily eventful, but in truth the DMC’s activities throughout the trial had never been a day at the beach.