#FierceMadness ends in over-the-top ballot stuffing, but we still pick a winner

The #FierceMadness tournament ended with a voting-bot twist but still featured a passionate community standing up for its drug. (Carly Helfand)

The first rule of ballot stuffing? Don’t overdo it, as it raises red flags. And that’s exactly what 34,035 votes for Brineura in our #FierceMadness drug-name contest did. 

Digging through the digital voting record and comparing IP addresses showed that the majority of the bot-type votes came from three single accounts. We never explicitly forbade multiple voting in the contest but rather relied on the integrity of the voters. And while a few people voting a couple of extra times is no big deal, tens of thousands of votes from a few accounts doesn’t seem fair for all. 

The thing is, the real BioMarin people honestly did rally. They voted, they got their friends and family members to vote—one commenter said this round, “My wife works there and said to pick it. She’s the boss”—and they rallied the Brineura family community. Many people left comments about how the drug has helped their children or was important to their families. 

And so, we’re still picking Brineura as the winner. Throwing out the majority of the foul-play votes—it’s difficult to pick through 34,000 entries and find every single one—Brineura still won the legitimate vote.

For instance, from California alone, which is where BioMarin’s headquarters is, Brineura got 527 votes. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca's Imfinzi garnered 398 total with no bots at work. 

RELATED: With FDA nod, BioMarin prices orphan drug Brineura at $702K, but plans hefty discounts

We’d also like to offer an explanation for Trulance's loss in the last round. Going back to that voting, we discovered that one of the IP addresses from the final Brineura push also stuffed the votes for Imfinzi to ensure it would win in the semifinal round last week. Our guess is that whoever did it thought it would be easier to beat Imfinzi than Trulance for the final contest.

While the tournament didn't end the way we'd planned, BioMarin and Brineura's community shone throughout the contest. We’ll conclude with the musings of one sincere, non-BioMarin voter, Brian Bertini, who left his name on his comment. In short? He saw his vote as far more significant than mere kudos for a drug name.

“This drug name tournament not only allows for the advertisement of the drug itself, but also provides the opportunity for increased disease awareness," Bertini wrote. "I originally was fixed on choosing Imfinzi due to the fact that it is an immuno-oncology drug, which has the potential to contribute to a paradigm shift of cancer treatment."

"However, regardless of the outcome of this drug-naming tournament, Imfinzi will continue to be highly supported and profitable, and treatment for NSCLC and bladder cancer will continue to be strong," he went on. "Brineura, on the other hand, treats CNL2, which is a rare, terminal disease most common in children. A win for Brineura would certainly give this drug and indication exponentially more awareness compared to a win for Imfinzi, which is why I choose to vote for Brineura.”

Congrats to BioMarin on locking up its second consecutive #FierceMadness title, and thanks to all of you who voted and commented along the way. We couldn't do it without you. — Beth Snyder Bulik (Twitter) and Carly Helfand (Twitter)