Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Unusual: American Academy of Neurology lifts laquinimod MS embargo early after investment firm Jefferies breaks it

with 3 comments

This just in from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), whose meeting is underway in Honolulu as we speak:

SPECIAL NOTICE: Due to an embargo break by Jeffries analyst firm, the following late-breaking scientific abstract is being immediately released by the American Academy of Neurology at its Annual Meeting, in Honolulu, April 9 – 16, 2011. Please note that only this late-breaking abstract is being released early. The embargo remains the date and time of presentation for all other late-breaking abstracts presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting unless otherwise noted by the Academy’s Media and Public Relations Department.

The press conference scheduled for 9am HST, Tuesday, April 12, 2011, regarding Dr. Comi’s abstract below has also been cancelled.

We thank the reporters who abided by the embargo.

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL 4 P.M. ET/10 A.M. HST, THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 2011

Media Contacts:

[snip]

Oral Drug for MS Significantly Reduces Disease Activity and Slows Disability

HONOLULU – The drug laquinimod reduced the number of relapses for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), in a large, long-term Phase III clinical study that will be presented as late-breaking research at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, April 9–16, 2011, in Honolulu.

What’s noteworthy about this in Embargo Watch-ville is that in the past, when Wall Street analysts have written about embargoed studies, the New England Journal of Medicine has shrugged. This drives Embargo Watch — and Adam Feuerstein — even more batty than we already are. Jefferies is in the same league as JP Morgan, which was one of the firms that sent a memo on a NEJM lorcaserin study before the embargo had lifted last July.

The question, of course, is how Jefferies got hold of the embargoed abstract, although there are any number of possibilities, starting with reporters who called the firm for comment but certainly not ending there. I’ve contacted the AAN to see if they know how it happened, and whether there will be any sanctions, and will update with anything I hear.

But in the meantime, I think this is a model for handling these Wall Street breaks, which happen with some regularity. Managing conference embargoes is difficult, but if you’re going to have them, you have to be consistent. *Once something is in the public domain, it doesn’t matter whether a journalism outlet put it there, a Wall Street analyst or the society itself. It can’t actually be embargoed anymore. And I like the fact that the AAN gave the specific reason for the break.

Update, 5:30 Eastern, 4/11/11: The AAN tells me they’re investigating how Jefferies obtained the embargoed information. Also, in response to an Embargo Watch reader, I added a few sentences to the last paragraph, starting with the asterisk, on why I think this is a good model.

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Here’s a thought to consider: the Jeffries analyst didn’t break the embargo because, I assume, he/she never agreed to any embargo terms in the first place. Presumably the Jeffries source did break the embargo, but I actually think the analyst had an affirmative obligation to publish the report once in possession of the information. Analysts aren’t wimpy journalists, and they’re not forced to play these embargo games. (Or perhaps I’m being naive…)

    Larry Husten

    April 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm

  2. Working forward logically from that, Larry, publishers (and societies, in this case) should prohibit reporters from contacting analysts for comments about embargoed work. That means the analyst’s perspective won’t be represented (a loss to readers, though the reporter can probably speculate to much the same effect, albeit probably less pithily than if s/he had a quote to give), and the analyst’s profile won’t thereby be raised. Is that really to the analyst’s benefit? Depends on how short-term analysts think, I guess.

    Rebecca Barr

    April 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm

  3. Well, Ivan has been around this block before, notably with the FDA. I think the general assumption (FDA aside) is that it’s fine to share embargoed content with sources, but part of the bargain is that as a journalist you need to make sure that your source will also respect the embargo. In this case, we don’t know how the analyst received the embargoed content. I’m guessing it wasn’t from a journalist.

    I do think it is problematic to share with an analyst, though I hesitate to state categorically that it’s always wrong.

    Larry Husten

    April 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm


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