Can You Keep a Secret … at Medical Meetings?

Image courtesy of Flickr user velo_city (CC)

Tuesday morning I sat through the late-breaker session at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension.  The last two oral abstracts were based on work from the International Consortium for Blood Pressure Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS), whose goal is to identify genetic variants in known and novel genes that influence blood pressure in the general population. In the first talk, Dr. Mark Caulfield discussed the consortium’s methodology and the indentification of 29 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with blood pressure — 16 of which were at novel loci.

In the second talk, Dr. Daniel Levy discussed the development of a genetic risk score that incorporated all 29 alleles identified in the GWA and the score’s associations with several blood pressure-related clinical outcomes (such as target organ damage and cardiovascular events).  Before doing so though, he asked everyone in the audience to refrain from photographing the slides or recording the presentation due to an upcoming publication of the study.

As a reporter, I don’t consider myself bound by such requests for secrecy.  If it’s presented in a public forum, it’s fair game in my book. 

My question is to physicians, many of whom are now quite well-published themselves, thanks to everyman’s news outlets — blogs and social media.  Would you refrain from discussing the study in a widely-read (or completely unknown) blog or online forum?  Are you going to scoop reporters, who comply with the request? Do you think that such requests slow medical research?

We really want to know what you think.

Kerri Wachter

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Filed under Cardiovascular Medicine, Genomic medicine, Internal Medicine, Primary care

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