from the regrettable dept
Last month Techdirt wrote about the case of the giant pharma company AbbVie seeking to prevent the European Medicines Agency from releasing basic health safety data that AbbVie claims contains commercially sensitive information. Unfortunately, an interim injunction has just been granted to that effect:
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has been ordered by the General Court of the European Union not to provide documents as part of two access-to-documents requests until a final ruling is given by the Court. These interim rulings were made as part of court cases brought by two pharmaceutical companies, AbbVie and InterMune. The companies are challenging the Agency's decisions to grant access to non-clinical and clinical information (including clinical study reports) submitted by companies as part of marketing-authorisation applications in accordance with its 2010 access-to-documents policy.
As the EMA notes, it's not as if the release of this data is unprecedented:
Since November 2010, the Agency has released over 1.9 million pages in response to such requests. This is the first time that the policy has been legally challenged.
That obviously raises the question of why AbbVie and InterMune have problems with drug safety data being released when other companies don't. Fortunately, there is very broad support for the EMA's attempt to make this important information available for other researchers to check and analyze:
Since the two pharmaceutical companies filed these legal actions, the EMA has received more than 30 statements of support from various stakeholders, including the European Ombudsman, national competent authorities, members of the Agency's Management Board, Members of the European Parliament, academic institutions, non-governmental organisations, citizens' initiatives and scientific journals, some of whom have also applied to formally intervene in defence of the EMA at the Court.
There's a crucially important principle here, that public safety must outweigh any claims of commercial confidentiality. Let's hope that the General Court of the European Union recognizes that in its final judgment, which will have a major impact on health and safety not just in Europe but, as a knock-on effect, around the world too.