Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

NEJM lifts c difficile embargo early after Montreal Gazette breaks it; Optimer stock spikes

with 5 comments

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) lifted the embargo early on a study of a new drug for tough-to-treat intestinal infections today, after a Montreal Gazette story broke the embargo. From an email from the NEJM’s press office at 12:18 Eastern today:

We are lifting the embargo immediately for the Original Article, “Fidaxomicin versus Vancomycin for Clostridium difficile Infection,” and editorial, “The Search for Effective Treatment of Clostridium difficile Infection,” scheduled to appear in tomorrow’s February 3 issue. This article and editorial will be published on NEJM.org as soon as possible.

A story appeared in the Montreal Gazette this morning, based on information from an embargoed press release. This was not a violation by an NEJM advance-access media subscriber.

The embargo time for the remainder of the February 3 issue is still 5 PM ET today.

At least two things make this a bit more noteworthy than your garden-variety unintentional embargo break.

First, as NEJM’s Karen* Buckley’s email noted, the Montreal Gazette is not a NEJM media subscriber. The press release came from Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, Buckley told Embargo Watch by email. “The press release was properly marked as embargoed until 5 PM today,” she said. So the paper didn’t break a NEJM embargo. Buckley also told me:

We still communicate with the reporter responsible for the breach, and the person who sent out the press release.  We have received apologies from both, and promises to revisit their safeguards  to ensure that similar errors aren’t repeated.

Two, Optimer Pharmaceuticals’ stock spiked once the NEJM announced the embargo had lifted, as Forbes’ Matt Herper told me on Twitter. That suggests either that there were investors who hadn’t heard about the findings until the embargo lifted, that an embargo lift can drive stock price, or some other explanation that I’m sure more Wall Street-savvy readers will give me.

Hat tip: Charles Ornstein.

Updated 3:45 p.m. Eastern, 2/2/11 to add “NEJM’s Karen” to sentence with an asterisk. Apologies for the omission.

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. I think the stock spiked just because investors were finding out about the news. What was kind of neat was that you could see the stock spike — although it went down pretty fast.

    Matthew Herper

    February 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm

  2. What’s really interesting is that the spike didn’t happen until the embargo was lifted, even though the embargo was broken. Mr. Market, I gather, does not read the Montreal Gazette.

    Matthew Herper

    February 2, 2011 at 3:28 pm

  3. So does that mean media people could do insider trading based on embargoed material?

    Mico Tatalovic

    February 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

  4. I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with both the journalist at the Montreal Gazette (whose articles are often carried in papers across Canada) and the public information officer at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital. I would be extraordinarily surprised if this situation was anything more than the result of an honest mistake.

    William Raillant-Clark

    February 27, 2011 at 11:33 am


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