If the issue's on "Boston Legal," it's out there. This week's episode was focused on how BigPharma, government agencies, scientific journals and the docs are all in bed together. The suit made public also this week - "Biopure v. Natanson" - is a permutation of that theme.
In that suit in federal court, instead of attacking parties for being in bed together, Cambridge, Massachusetts Biopure Corporation, reports Sheri Qualters in THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL, attacks an author for a negative article. [Subscription required by clip available on Law.Com.]
Biopure contends that Charles Natanson of the National Institute of Health co-authored an article in the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, published on April 28, 2008, which includes "defamation, trade libel and interference with prospective business advantage." The company manufactures the Hemopure blood substitute product, being sold in South Africa. It is awaiting regulatory approval in other areas.
The article is titled "Cell-Free Hemoglobin-Based Blood Substitutes and Risk of Myocardial Infraction and Death." Here is the abstract. The conclusion is this: "Based on the available data, use of HBBSs is associated with a significantly increased risk of death and MI." In addition, the suit claims that Natanson's letters to foreign health experts about Biopure's products also constitute defamation and trade libel. Biopure also contends that Natanson is in the process of seeking a patent and marketing a technology which reduces alleged negative side effects of HBBBs.
What Biopure seeks is a preliminary and permanent injunction against the defendant that would prevent him from making public "malicious, false, defamatory, and/or misleading statements concerning Biopure."
Of course this lawsuit throws a chill through the scientific community, which is already under fire for its research methods and publication of results in supposed peer-reviewed journals. Free speech could be on the chopping block. So could the ability of the scientific community to discuss in public controversial findings and issues.
Legal experts see the plaintiff as having rough sledding. Gag orders are tough to obtain except in extreme situations such as those involving national security. In the end, the consumer might suffer the most in not having diverse scientific opinion to review. Thanks to the Internet, more and more patients and clients go online to become an informed participant in choosing treatment options.