The Senate's Finance Committee chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) called yesterday for a federal investigation into allegations that doctors are supplying Wall Street investment firms with information about clinical trials prior to companies announcing the results.
The move follows a report in Sunday's Seattle Times detailing how, despite confidentiality agreements, doctors have revealed information concerning ongoing drug research to investment firms, in exchange for a fee.
The newspaper article cited 26 cases in which doctors leaked confidential details on their research, including 24 where firms issued reports to selected clients advising whether to buy or sell a stock.
The Times report added that investors have been known to pay up to $1 million a year to firms known as "matchmakers," which team up investment firms with doctors involved in drug research. Those alerted in advance as to whether a drug is going to succeed or fail can buy stock low or sell it high to those who don't know, making quick fortunes by taking advantage of unwitting investors, an article in today's Wall Street Journal said.
"Selling drug secrets violates a trust that is fundamental to the integrity of both scientific research and our financial markets," Grassley wrote in a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that called for an investigation.
Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, told Reuters that clinical trials must be "a trustworthy process so that folks who work within it are busy trying to get the truth about a drug ... not busy trying to help somebody on Wall Street make money."