Ideally, the scientific process dictates that an experiment such as a drug study should be finished, and its results submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, before any debate regarding it begins.


But what if the results show a strongly helpful benefit, as in the case of Onyx Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ:ONXX) and Bayer's Nexavar? Or, worse, what if the results seem to show a potentially harmful one? And what say should the companies have in this process?

That question is once again important, thanks to news surrounding Vytorin, the cholesterol-fighting combination of Merck's (NYSE:MRK) Zocor and Schering-Plough's (NYSE:SGP) Zetia. Various studies have shown conflicting evidence on whether Vytorin increases patients' risk of cancer deaths.

However, rather than finishing the scientific process, some data was released in a press conference -- at the insistence of the drugmakers according to one report. Not scientific. Remember cold fusion? However, there are billions of dollars in sales at stake.

Unfortunately, none of the studies were actually designed to answer the question, "Is there a higher risk of cancer death for patients taking Vytorin?" All the data so far comes from three studies that were designed to answer other questions, not that one. And there is a distinct possibility that Vytorin actually doesn't have a link to cancer deaths.

What should be done in this kind of situation, and why? Vote in our poll or add a comment below.

Fool editor Jim Mueller did not have a position in any company mentioned at the time of publication. The Fool's disclosure policy graduated summa cum laude from disclosure school.