Scientist, drug firm in court

Spanish lawsuit over a report in a newsletter raises concerns about freedom of scientific debate

Xavier Bosch(xbosch@teleline.es)
Jan 22, 2004

Questions of scientific freedom of expression have been raised in Spain this month at the beginning of a court case brought by drug firm Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) against Juan Ramón Laporte, a renowned Spanish pharmacologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

The case, which began on January 16 in Madrid, relates to an article in which the scientist commented on irregularities surrounding clinical trials of COX-2 inhibitors.

COX-2 inhibitors are antiinflammatory agents potentially devoid of the upper gastrointestinal effects of standard drugs. The article in question was published in the July–September 2002 issue of Yellow Bulletin, an independent pharmacovigilance newsletter addressed to Spanish and Latin American physicians and pharmacists.

Laporte is the editor-in-chief of this publication, of which some 35,000 copies in Catalan and Spanish are distributed 5 times a year. In his article, Laporte—who chaired the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Essential Medicines in 2002...

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