Japanese Research Scandal Involving Novartis Blood Pressure Drug Widens Reply

The Japanese scandal over research using the Novartis blockbuster hypertension drug Diovan (valsartan) continues to widen. The first major figure brought down in the scandal was Hiroaki Matsubara, a prominent cardiologist and researcher at Kyoto Prefectural University in Japan, who  resigned from his position after numerous retractions and investigations. Then last year accusations surfaced about another prominent researcher, Issei Komuro, a professor at Chiba University.

Chiba University has now completed an investigation of one of Komuro’s most important papers, the 2011 report of the Valsartan Amlodipine Randomized Trial (VART), published in Hypertension Research, which is the official journal of the Japanese Society of Hypertension.

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Saying Sorry May Not Be Good Enough For Novartis Reply

Novartis has issued a formal apology over misconduct relating to valsartan (Diovan) research in Japan, but that apology does not appear likely to satisfy the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which plans to fully investigate the company’s role in the scandal. If necessary, ministry officials are prepared to raid the company’s offices in Japan.

A Novartis official apologized to the Japanese public for the apparent manipulation of data. David Epstein, the head of the pharmaceutical division at Novartis, met with the Japanese health minister. “We express our deep regret for the concern that the issue has brought to patients, to the medical society as well as the ministry,” Epstein was quoted by Reuters after the meeting. He said the company was “willing to work with” Japanese investigators and will “take additional actions and potential sanctions in order to bring the issue to a good conclusion.”

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Lancet Formally Retracts Jikei Heart Study Of Valsartan Reply

The Lancet has formally retracted the Jikei Heart Study paper, originally published in 2007. The retraction had been widely anticipated for more than a month, after a series of news reports in Japan made it clear that the long-simmering controversy over scientific misconduct involving the Novartis blood pressure lowering drug valsartan (Diovan) had come to a full boil. (See our earlier story here.)

As reported previously, the current scandal first began to unfold in late 2011 when a Japanese blogger pointed to a number of apparent errors in publications authored by Hiroaki Matsubara. This ultimately led to a series of retractions of Matsubara’s papers and the retraction of the main paper of the Kyoto Heart Study itself by the European Heart Journal.

In the notice of retraction

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More Bad News For Novartis Blood Pressure Drug Reply

In the last few days more bad news about valsartan (Diovan, Novartis) has emerged in Japan. Another major study conducted in Japan– the Jikei Heart Study– will be retracted and Japanese health authorities said they were investigating severe skin reactions associated with use of the drug.

The new events are only the latest problems for the drug and Novartis…

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Diovan Data Was Fabricated, Say Japanese Health Minister And University Officials Reply

Following a long series of accusations, retractions, and the resignation of a prominent professor, it now is clear that data from a large Japanese study of valsartan (Diovan, Novartis) was fabricated. On Thursday officials at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine said that “had patient records been used in their entirety,” the Kyoto Heart Study “would have had a different conclusion,” reported AFB.

In 2009 the Kyoto Heart Study investigators, including the chief investigator, Hiroaki Matsubara, reported that treatment with valsartan resulted in significant cardiovascular benefits independent of the drug’s blood-pressure lowering effect. Now officials at the university say the drug had no such effect.

On Friday Norihisa Tamura, Japan’s health minister, said data had been “fabricated and falsified.” Tamura said he would set up a committee to prevent episodes like this from happening again.

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Norihisa Tamura

Novartis Acknowledges Employees Participated In ‘Independent’ Trials Reply

Novartis has acknowledged that employees of the company participated in five “independent” investigator-initiated post-registration trials without disclosing their relationship to the company. The company said that a broader “comprehensive investigation with independent third party experts is ongoing” but that it has “provided an update” to Japanese medical societies and to the principal investigators of the five trials.

The new statement from Novartis admits that “one of our former employees [presumably Shirahashi] had varying levels of involvement in five investigator initiated valsartan trials in Japan.” The statement also disclosed that “a second former employee (who reported to the first former employee) had involvement which was limited to one of these trials.” Novartis said that independent investigation is continuing but that so far there has been no indication of a “specific company strategy to integrate the first former employee into the five valsartan investigator initiated trials.” However, the investigation has revealed

that some of this former employee’s superiors in Japan knew of his participation in these trials and were supportive of him in these activities. They believed that employees of a business that had academic titles could perform clinical research support as academics, without any conflict of interest issues arising. In addition, there is no indication that any of his supervisors knew or approved of the incomplete disclosure of his affiliation in the published papers for these studies.

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İsviçre Basel'deki Novartis binası

 

 

Japanese Research Scandal Expands To A Second Trial And A Novartis Employee Reply

A Japanese research scandal, which has so far centered on actions taken by the once-prominent cardiologist Hiroaki Matsubara, has now expanded. As has been previously reported, several papers authored by Matsubara have been retracted, including, most notably, the main publication of the Kyoto Heart Study in the European Heart Journal.

Now, however, questions have been raised about  another clinical trial, the Jikei Heart Trial, which was published in the Lancet in 2007.  (Matsubara was not involved in this trial.) Novartis, which manufactures valsartan (Diovan), the drug studied in both trials, has announced that it is investigating both trials in response to new allegations that a Novartis employee worked on the trials without any disclosure of his company affiliation.

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Two Retractions For Embattled Chief Investigator Of Kyoto Heart Study Reply

Hiroaki Matsubara

The editor of Circulation Journal, the official journal of the Japanese Circulation Society (and not to be confused with the American Heart Association’s better known Circulation) has announced the retraction of two substudies from the Kyoto Heart Study. The papers, according to the editor, “contain a number of serious errors in data analysis.”

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Another One Bites the Dust: Diovan Patent Expires But Generic Valsartan Is MIA 1

Although the patent on valsartan (Diovan, Novartis) expired last Friday, a generic version of the popular antihypertensive drug has yet to make it to market. By contrast, a generic version of Diovan HCT, the combination of valsartan and hydrochlorothiazide, was recently launched by generic drugmaker Mylan.

As reported on Pharmalot, Ranbaxy, the embattled generic drugmaker, holds the exclusive rights to market generic valsartan for 180 days, but has so far been unable to gain FDA approval. The delay, according to Pharmalot, “only adds to the uncertainty surrounding Ranbaxy’s ability to recover from its long-standing manufacturing woes and haggling with the FDA over its ability to resume operations on regular basis in the US.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Diovan franchise generated $5.7 billion worldwide in 2011.
Click here to read the Mylan press release…