BARCELONA ( TheStreet) -- Yesterday, I used the words "misguided," "unfair" and "unworkable" to describe a plan by the European Association for the Study of Liver (EASL) to selectively disclose hepatitis C research abstracts ahead of its important and closely followed conference next month.
I'd like to amend my description of EASL today to include "confused" and "incompetent" because the medical research society can't seem to get straight which date it plans to selectively distribute those research abstracts.
On Tuesday, EASL sent an email to a registered attendee of its International Liver Congress, taking place April 18-22 in Barcelona, explaining that the online posting of research abstracts would be delayed until March 27 due to technical difficulties. Abstracts were originally scheduled for release on March 22.
"Please be advised that there has been a delay with the posting of the abstracts online," EASL's email states. "This year EASL have a new programme in place which will allow only paid registrants and EASL Members access to the abstracts. We have been informed that the programme is still being tested and that it should be ready for posting online on Tuesday, 27 March."Several sell-side analysts spoke independently to EASL officials Tuesdays and were also told that the release of research abstracts was being delayed until March 27. But when I asked EASL spokesperson Jacqui Sisto to confirm and further explain the abstract posting delay, she denied it: "I do not know the source of your information, but it is incorrect. EASL will release the abstracts on March 22 as planned," said Sisto in an email sent Wednesday morning. Hopefully, EASL will get its act together soon and let us all know when research abstracts will be posted. These abstracts are important because they contain potentially stock-moving clinical data pertaining to new hepatitis C drugs. EASL's International Liver Congress is the must-follow medical meeting of the spring. Gilead Sciences (GILD), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), Abbott (ABT), Idenix Pharmaceuticals (IDIX), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) and Merck (MRK) are among the companies rolling out new clinical data on experimental hepatitis C therapies. As far as I know, EASL still has no plans to alter its plan to distribute these important research abstracts only to EASL members or registered attendee of the EASL meeting -- a group which includes hedge fund and mutual fund portfolio managers and sell-side analysts, all of whom can pay for early access. EASL's research abstracts will not be made available to the public. That means a select group of investors will have access to potentially stock-moving clinical data while a majority of investors will be kept in the dark. Journalists registered to cover the EASL meeting will also be granted early access to hepatitis C research abstracts but they are still barred by EASL's restrictive embargo rules from writing about any new data until the start of the April meeting. At EASL, amateur hour continues. --Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.
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