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Tue Nov 2 23:11:31 PDT 2021
Falsified Data: Pfizer Vaccine Trial Had Major Flaws, Whistleblower
Tells Peer-Reviewed Journal
A whistleblower involved in Pfizer's pivotal phase III Covid-19
vaccine trial has leaked evidence to a notable peer-reviewed medical
publication that poor practices at the contract research company she
worked for raise questions about data integrity and regulatory
Brook Jackson, a now-fired regional director at Ventavia Research
Group, revealed to The BMJ that vaccine trials at several sites in
Texas last year had major problems - including falsified data, broke
fundamental rules, and were 'slow' to report adverse reactions.
When she notified superiors of the issues she found, they fired her.
A regional director who was employed at the research organisation
Ventavia Research Group has told The BMJ that the company falsified
data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinators,
and was slow to follow up on adverse events reported in Pfizer’s
pivotal phase III trial. Staff who conducted quality control checks
were overwhelmed by the volume of problems they were finding. After
repeatedly notifying Ventavia of these problems, the regional
director, Brook Jackson, emailed a complaint to the US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA). Ventavia fired her later the same day. Jackson
has provided The BMJ with dozens of internal company documents,
photos, audio recordings, and emails. -The BMJ
Poor laboratory management
Jackson, a trained clinical trial auditor with more than 15 years'
experience, says she repeatedly warned her superiors of poor
laboratory management, patient safety concerns, and data integrity
issues. After she was ignored, she started documenting problems with
the camera on her mobile phone.
One photo, provided to The BMJ, showed needles discarded in a
plastic biohazard bag instead of a sharps container box. Another
showed vaccine packaging materials with trial participants’
identification numbers written on them left out in the open,
potentially unblinding participants. Ventavia executives later
questioned Jackson for taking the photos.
The unblinding was potentially far more severe as well. Per the
trial's design, unblinded staff prepared and administered either
Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine or a placebo. This was done to preserve the
blinding of trial participants and other staff - including the
principal investigator. At Ventavia, however, Jackson says that drug
assignments were left in participants' charts and accessible to
blinded personnel. The breach was corrected last September, two months
into the trial at which point there were around 1,000 participants
Jackson recorded a September 2020 meeting with two Ventavia directors,
at which an executive can be heard saying that the company couldn't
quantify the types and number of errors with their testing.
"In my mind, it's something new every day," they said, adding "We know
that it's significant."
According to the report, Ventavia also failed to keep up with data
entry - as a Sept. 2020 email from Pfizer partner ICON reveals.
"The expectation for this study is that all queries are addressed
within 24hrs.” ICON then highlighted over 100 outstanding queries
older than three days in yellow. Examples included two individuals for
which “Subject has reported with Severe symptoms/reactions … Per
protocol, subjects experiencing Grade 3 local reactions should be
contacted. Please confirm if an UNPLANNED CONTACT was made and update
the corresponding form as appropriate.” According to the trial
protocol a telephone contact should have occurred “to ascertain
further details and determine whether a site visit is clinically
FDA Inspection woes
Other documents provided to The BMJ reveal that Ventavia officials
were worried about three employees . In an email in early August 2020,
an executive identified three site staff members with whom they need
to "Go over e-diary issue/falsifying data, etc."
One of the employees was "verbally counseled for changing data and not
noting late entry," a note reveals.
During the September meeting, Ventavia executives and Jackson
discussed the potential for the FDA to show up for an inspection. On
former Ventavia employee told The BMJ that the company was petrified
over the potential for an FDA audit, and were in fact expecting one
over the Pfizer vaccine trial.
"People working in clinical research are terrified of FDA audits,"
Jill Fisher told the journal, adding however that the agency rarely
does anything except review paperwork - usually months after a trial
is over. "I don’t know why they’re so afraid of them," she added -
saying that she was surprised that the agency failed to inspect
Ventavia following an employee complaint.
"You would think if there’s a specific and credible complaint that
they would have to investigate that."
Jackson sent a Sept. 25 email to the FDA in which she wrote that
Ventavia had enrolled over 1,000 participants at three sites, out of
the full trial's 44,000 participants across 153 sites which included
various academic institutions and commercial companies. She raised
concerns over issues she had witnessed, including:
Participants placed in a hallway after injection and not being
monitored by clinical staff
Lack of timely follow-up of patients who experienced adverse events
Protocol deviations not being reported
Vaccines not being stored at proper temperatures
Mislabelled laboratory specimens, and
Targeting of Ventavia staff for reporting these types of problems.
Hours later, the FDA emailed her back, thanking her for her input but
notifying her that they would not comment on any investigation which
That said, in August of this year, the FDA published a summary of its
inspections of Pfizer's pivotal phase III trial. They looked at just
nine out of the trial's 153 sites, and did not look at any of
Ventavia's operations. Further, no inspections were conducted
following the December 2020 emergency authorization of the vaccine.
Other employees corroborate Jackson's complaints
Two former Ventavia employees spoke with The BMJ anonymously, and
confirmed 'broad aspects' of Jackson's account.
One said that she had worked on over four dozen clinical trials in
her career, including many large trials, but had never experienced
such a “helter skelter” work environment as with Ventavia on Pfizer’s
“I’ve never had to do what they were asking me to do, ever,” she
told The BMJ. “It just seemed like something a little different from
normal—the things that were allowed and expected.”
She added that during her time at Ventavia the company expected a
federal audit but that this never came.
After Jackson left the company problems persisted at Ventavia,
this employee said. In several cases Ventavia lacked enough employees
to swab all trial participants who reported covid-like symptoms, to
test for infection. Laboratory confirmed symptomatic covid-19 was the
trial’s primary endpoint, the employee noted. (An FDA review
memorandum released in August this year states that across the full
trial swabs were not taken from 477 people with suspected cases of
“I don’t think it was good clean data,” the employee said of the
data Ventavia generated for the Pfizer trial. “It’s a crazy mess.”
The second employee told The BMJ that working at Ventavia was unlike
any environment she had experienced in 20 years of research.
Since her firing, Jackson has reconnected with several Ventavia
employees who either left or were fired themselves. One of them sent
her a text message, which reads "everything that you complained about
was spot on."
Meanwhile, since Jackson reported issues with Ventavia to the FDA in
September 2020, Pfizer has contracted with the company for four other
vaccine clinical trials.
One has to wonder - if the FDA is auditing less than 10% of trials,
how many more potential whistleblowers could there be?
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