Science and Law
29th November 2012

Good Scientific Monitoring: Key to Winning Pharmaceutical Litigation

Complex scientific and medical data play an integral role in pharmaceutical litigation. Understanding and a keen awareness of the exact nature of the science is key to winning cases.

Good Scientific Monitoring: Key to Winning Pharmaceutical Litigation

Complex scientific and medical data play an integral role in pharmaceutical litigation. Understanding and a keen awareness of the exact nature of the science is key to winning cases.

However, lawyers are busy professionals and it is an extremely daunting task to keep up with and organize the pharmaceutical science related to the case. To make things more difficult, new scientific and medical data are constantly published, medical conferences are held daily across the globe, lectures are taught, and scientific grants are being awarded. A litigation team must be aware of all these things and more, but how can they keep up?

The solution is to build a strong scientific monitoring program. This initiative should entail constant surveillance of the scientific data, categorical organization, good searchable archives, and a system that will facilitate instantaneous delivery. Best practices in scientific monitoring should involve setting up targeted search strings in multiple public and private access databases, conference and symposia monitoring, and scientific/academic grant searching.

A recent article written by Erick M. Dubuque of the University of Nevada details these principles. In his paper, Dubuque describes some interesting best practices regarding automating scientific literature searches with RSS Feeds and Google Reader. The article describes a very convenient way for individuals to stay abreast of the most current research and news relevant to their work. Some advantages to using RSS feeds: (a) they save valuable time by automatically conducting relevant searches of the literature and the World Wide Web; (b) searches are conducted frequently, which means subscribers are informed of updates usually within minutes or hours of their release; and (c) when feeds are grouped together in a program, such as Google Reader, relevant updates can be viewed or shared from one location.

Once literature is identified and obtained from these activities, it is imperative to understand the role of good information management science, specifically how information resources are organized to serve the needs of select user groups and how these groups may interact with classification systems. Therefore, best practices dictate that it is necessary to develop a method of categorical organization based on scientific topics of predetermined importance (e.g., scientific discipline, disease states, medical outcomes, exposures, etc.). This will enable users to efficiently drill down to the scientific papers of immediate interest rather than having to search through hundreds or thousands of documents.

From experience, I have seen many professionals store scientific documents in a decentralized manner — e.g., individual PDFs stored on a single user’s PC. Storing data in this manner just spells trouble. Therefore, the final piece of the puzzle is to develop a centralized archival and management system. With advances in cloud-computing, creating a more central system has empowered individuals to instantaneously view and manage documents from anywhere with an internet connection. Just imagine the efficiency of your entire scientific library, nicely categorized and securely accessible at the click of a mouse.

If a litigation team ensures the steps highlighted above, maintaining effective awareness of the science related to your litigation will be a much easier task. With good science monitoring, lawyers will be equipped to better understand the various strengths/weaknesses of the science and anticipate the nature of the scientific theories the other side may be relying on. Cross examinations will be more devastating and direct examinations will be more persuasive.

 

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