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Clinical Trials

Giving Ambulance Chasing a Bad Name

My Twitter feed alerted me to this press release, surely one of the sleaziest I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not that there’s no actual data in it, although that’s bad enough. Nor is it that it talks about “promising results”, even though the trial it touts is still underway, even though that’s pretty bad, too.
No, what puts this one over the top is that it’s not even from the company doing the trial (Verastem). Instead, this one is brought to you by “the mesothelioma law firm of X and Y” (damned if I’m going to give them any advertising myself). They self-identify several times with that exact phrase. And they wind up by reminding you that if you’ve ever seen, heard, or thought about asbestos fibers, to be sure to give them a call. Good grief.

10 comments on “Giving Ambulance Chasing a Bad Name”

  1. alig says:

    They also misspell the name of the drug multiple times.

  2. darwin says:

    lawyers are the hagfish of society

  3. SP says:

    Take comfort in the fact that it’s really expensive for them to advertise- several years ago mesothelioma was the most expensive google adword, don’t know if it still is but it may be why they’re taking to shady advertising like this.

  4. Am I Lloyd says:

    “Mesothelioma law firm”
    You mean a law firm which gives people mesothelioma? Sign me up!

  5. A Nonny Mouse says:

    In the UK, my second cousin is one of the leading legal people in the UK in this field which is what got him up to QC level- all as a result of the phone call that I had with him many years ago telling him NOT to study chemistry at university!

  6. Mike says:

    While this seems pretty low and shocking, it’s not a novel concept by any means. It’s native advertising (dressing up an advertisement to make it appear as though it’s actually news), but just in a new field. “Last Week Tonight” did a great bit on it a while back (see link in handle).

  7. steve says:

    As a stem cell biologist (who just wrote a book chapter on the subject) I can tell you that the history of stem cells is replete with this kind of stuff. In the 1980’s the idea was that you could dose-escalate chemo for breast cancer and rescue the bone marrow with a transplant. This was based on a few faulty early clinical trials. It went into widespread use with insurance companies being forced to pay for an experimental procedure because of political pressure from patient advocacy groups. Finally, five major prospective studies were carried out. Four showed no advantage to dose intensity followed by BMT whereas the fifth, a South African trial which did, was found to be fraudulent. It’s estimated that over 40,000 women worldwide at a nominal cost of >$3B underwent the morbidity and mortality of stem cell transplants for no purpose.

  8. steve says:

    More recently, based on a single paper in Nature that never has been repeated that claimed that bone marrow cells could convert to cardiac muscle, a whole cottage industry grew up of cardiologists injecting bone marrow and other cells into the hearts of patients that had myocardial infarctions. No clearcut medical benefit has yet been established and (again) data from one of the leading labs (this time in Germany) turned out to be fraudulent. At least in this case the injections were proven safe but the rush to putting stem cells all over the place thinking that they’ll magically cure disease isn’t just from some fly-by-night companies but also at major medical centers. We’re far from understanding how stem cells work and how they could be used therapeutically in a rational manner.

  9. steve says:

    By the way, now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, I actually read the link that Derek posted. The drug from Verastem (which is a legitimate company started by some top MIT biologists) is a FAK inhibitor, not a stem cell treatment. So the law firm has absolutely no clue what it’s talking about.

  10. steve says:

    One last post. Actually, the law firm isn’t that far off. They say correctly that the idea is to target and kill mesothelioma cancer stem cells, which are a target of the FAK inhibitor. So I don’t think it’s quite the way Derek portrayed it.

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