Drug Studies are Biased if Funded by Pharmaceuticals Companies

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A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine has shown that drug studies funded by pharmaceuticals tend to be biased.

Pharmaceutical Industry Funded 63% of Drug Studies

Researchers from the United States and Canada examined 546 drug trials registered in ClinicalTrials.gov, a registry of both federal and private trials in the United States and abroad. 346 of them, or 63 percent, were funded by the pharmaceutical industry. The remaining 200 were paid for by government or non-profit organizations. Study authors found that more than 85 percent of industry-funded trials in their sample posted favorable outcomes and were 4 times more likely to report findings that favored their drug showing that drug studies funded by pharmaceuticals tend to be quite biased.

"We did this study in order to determine whether there is an inherent bias because pharmaceutical companies fund trials on products in which they have a financial interest," said study co-author Dr. Kenneth Mandl of Children's Hospital, Boston. "The most reassuring result would have been that the rate of favorable outcomes would be the same regardless of funding sources. In a very dramatic way that was not the case and what we need to ascertain is if the cause of this shift toward favorable findings among trials funded by pharmaceutical companies is related to the details of the protocols and study design."

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Dr. Florence Bourgeois, also of Children's Hospital, Boston and lead author of the study said, "The implications of these findings are that we need more oversight in the way clinical trials are designed as well as in the analysis and reporting of the results. One option may be to make study protocols directly available on clinicatrials.gov as well as the comprehensive reviews complied by the FDA on trial results." She continued, "While we cannot specifically point to which factors contribute to the association between funding source and positive results reporting, our findings speak to the need for more disclosure of all elements of a study."

Dr. Erick Turner of Oregon Health & Science University, who led a 2008 New England Journal of Medicine study on selective publication of antidepressant trials, said in an e-mail interview that he wasn’t surprised by what the Children’s researchers concluded. He also thinks that having study protocols available would help

Dr. Deborah Zarin, Director of ClinicalTrials.gov at the National Institutes of Health says, It is clear, however, that some level of selective publication is occurring, so that the public (as well as medical experts) only have access to a biased sample of studies for any given class of drugs. It is therefore urgent that all sponsors of trials, whether government, industry, or others, make strenuous efforts to implement the requirements under FDAAA," she said. "Once this is done, the public will have access to the basic results of key drug and device studies, without being dependent on the interests of the sponsors.”

Drug companies are the most profitable industry and drug studies funded by pharmaceuticals tend to be quite biased. In fact, in 2001, a year which saw a drop in employment rates, a plunge in the stock market and America's economy literally come crashing down, the drug companies continued their reign as the most profitable industry.

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Comments

The headline could also be interpreted 'Drug Studies are MORE EFFECTIVE if Funded by Pharmaceuticals Companies'