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Posted by on May 19, 2008 in Cardiology, Media, Pharma

Media Retain Big Anti-Jones for ENHANCE, Schering-Plough, and Fred Hassan

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to reading mainstream pharma coverage, Forbes now questions the propriety of CEO Fred Hassan’s $13-million bonus from Schering-Plough. Writers Matthew Herper and Michael Maiello imply today that the delay of the negative results of the ENHANCE study* directly benefited SP’s leader by maintaining the company’s stock price for as long as possible. The story was snapped up this morning by Sarah Rubenstein at the WSJ Health Blog and Ed Silverman at Pharmalot.

The results of the ENHANCE study were made public by SP in January of this year and presented in full by principal investigator John Kastelein at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in March, after longstanding concerns of data quality. However, Kastelein believes that the study results could have been presented as early as March 2007 (but not November 2006), according to media reports, and Forbes argues that an earlier release would have cost Hassan at least $4 million in bonus money, given SP’s sales requirements for generating bonuses.

SP’s share price began dropping in October 2007 and took a preciptious plunge after the release of the ENHANCE results in January 2008, when highly critical reports of the study’s data handling flooded pharma-related press outlets. For its part, the WSJ Health Blog doesn’t blame itself or other media sources for fomenting the drop in SP stock—long before lower Vytorin sales could ever be reflected in the company’s earnings.

*Which, if you’ve just come out of an extended coma (and congratulations, BTW), showed that the combination of ezetimibe and simvastatin (Vytorin) was no more effective for reducing carotid intima-media thickness than simvastatin alone. Data-quality issues in ENHANCE have been discussed previously at the Pathophilia blog (see hereherehereherehere, here, here, here, and here, for instance).

bmartin (1128 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.