Industry-Funded Drug Trials Likely to Yield Positive Results

Media outlets have routinely confirmed what we have long suspected; and now, Science Daily is writing that researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston have found that industry-funded trials tend to favor the <"">drug being tested.

The research appears in today’s issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine and the team is urging for increased transparency about clinical drug trials to better eliminate bias, said Science Daily. The team looked at 546 drug trials from 2000 to 2006 listed with—an Internet-based federal database of clinical trials—said Science Daily.

The team analyzed tests with cholesterol-lowering drugs, antidepressants, antipsychotics, proton-pump inhibitors, and vasodilators; reviewed medical literature for publications linked to the trials; further analyzed four separate databases; and contacted—when needed—trial investigators, wrote Science Daily.

The team found that the vast majority of industry-funded trials—85 percent— showed positive results versus positive outcomes in half of the cases when government funded and 72 percent when funded by nonprofits or nonfederal firms, said Science Daily. The team allowed for a three-year time frame between tests and findings; also, those trials in the nonprofit/nonfederal groups that were industry funded—half—were likelier to report positive outcomes: 85 versus 61 percent, said Science Daily. All differences, wrote Science Daily, were considered statistically significant.

The researchers pointed out that industry was likely to be more discriminating regarding what it funded, which could have something to do with the high positive outcome percentages, but did still find the high rate alarming, wrote Science Daily. Also, the researchers noted that such trials can be influenced to appear more positive, for instance by delaying release of negative results, only publishing positive results (so-called publication bias), but that study design, patient choice, results reporting, and data analysis can all also play a part, wrote Science Daily.

Considering the impact of how clinical trials are conducted, we previously wrote about an enlightening and alarming study in which researchers at the University of North Carolina reported that clinical breast-cancer trials funded by drug companies tended to produce more favorable results than independently funded studies. According to the authors, pharmaceutical involvement in published clinical breast-cancer research could affect study design, focus, and results.

We also recently wrote that some influential groups changed how they deal with potential conflicts of interests. Seeking to increase industry transparency and amid media reports, investigations, and legal actions surrounding industry ties, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a release stating its Board of Trustees voted to phase out industry-supported symposia.

The state of Massachusetts also adopted what are considered to be the most comprehensive rules by banning pharmaceutical and medical device companies from providing gifts to physicians, limits when companies can pay for doctors’ meals, and requirements that companies publicly disclose payments to doctors over $50 for specific consulting and speaking engagements.

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