Shelley Salpeter, a doctor who consults for plaintiffs' attorneys, argues that four out of five asthma deaths a year are caused by Serevent, one of two asthma drugs in asthma-inhaler Advair. That's a pretty sensational claim, since Serevent wasn't on the market in the US until 1994, but there's no evidence that asthma deaths have quintupled over the last five years, even as tens of millions of American asthma sufferers began using the drug. (In fact, American asthma deaths have been steadily decreasing, even as the vast majority of prescriptions for asthma are now for Advair or for Serevent alone.) Nevertheless, a story in Forbes, which should know better, argues that there is "growing evidence" that Serevent causes fatal problems, but fails to identify any of that evidence, other than conclusory allegations in a Beasley Allen lawsuit. (Robert Langreth, "Trouble Breathing", Forbes, Apr. 24).
The bias of the story is evident from the characterization of Glaxo having "deemed statistically insignificant" a difference in a study. A statistical result either is or isn't statistically significant at a certain level. There is no subjective component of "deeming" to the mathematical calculation, unless the story is trying to improperly impugn sinister motives to one who performs basic science.
At a minimum, an editor at Forbes should have questioned the story's asking readers to infer that a Glaxo denial of a problem is evidence of wrongdoing. How precisely is an accused company supposed to defend itself?
The story was especially disappointing coming from Forbes, which usually debunks self-serving claims of plaintiffs' lawyers like Beasley Allen, rather than acts as a publicity agent for those claims.