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A Call to Attention


EPC: Why do you think your tweet resonated with so many people?

Dr Mark Toshner: Iím not 100% certain, I think part of the reason is that when you look at the surface of vaccine-hesitant people, it turns out that safety is the number one fear, and it just hasn't been addressed by anybody systematically. When people are out there who arenít necessarily anti-vaccine, but have anxiety because of the speed and the questions of safety, it's because nobodyís actually explained to them what a normal process looks like and what this speeded up process looks like. I think it just spoke to something that people were anxious about, and that nobody was really addressing.

What do you think needs to happen for the general public to gain confidence in the pharmaceutical industry?

One of the problems is that people donít understand the process and how rigorous it is. Thatís really been hammered home to me, even by colleagues. They are coming to me to express reservations and don't understand the process. Little simple things, like people, who should know better, not clamouring for immediate release of data in interim analysis, and I have to sit down and explain to them that, by definition, youíre not going to get an extensive release of patient-level data interim analysis. Part of this is just us educating people about what the clinical trial process looks like in the 21st century, and also how rigorous some of the safety steps in that process are. Thatís really what Iíve been tweeting about: very prosaic trial processes. It turns out nobody in the wider public, and often even in the medical fraternity, understands them very well.

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Dr Mark Toshner is a University Lecturer in Translational Respiratory Research and his group is interested in translational and experimental research in pulmonary vascular diseases. He is currently the Chief-Investigator of the TransformUK trial, the first investigator-led multicentre trial to involve all 7 specialist centres in the UK. Dr Toshner undertook a British Heart Foundation Research Training Fellowship in Cambridge in 2007 where he trained in cell and molecular mechanisms of endothelial dysfunction in pulmonary hypertension. He was appointed to a Wellcome/ NIHR Clinical Lecturer in 2010.
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