There might be a reason why so many drugs get beneficial results when clinically tested in trials. It could be that those results are a little biased. At least this is according to a recent review by researchers at the Children’s Hospital Boston.
Researchers at the famed children’s hospital reviewed 546 drug trials that were conducted between 2000 and 2006. The studies included five types of drugs: cholesterol-lowering medicines; antidepressants; antipsychotics; proton-pump inhibitors; and vasodilators.
It seems that drug studies paid for by the pharmaceutical industry are more likely to publish favorable results than those funded by sources with no financial interest in the findings. The drug-industry-funded studies reported positive findings about the drug in question 85% of the time, compared with a much-lower 50% for government-funded trials and 72% for those funded by nonprofit or nonfederal organizations.
The researchers also found nonprofit trials that received drug-maker contributions were 24% more likely to report positive findings than those with no links to the industry. And it seems only 32% of industry-funded trials published results within two years of clinical trial completion, compared with 54% of government-funded studies and 56% of nonprofit/nonfederal trials.
The researchers conclude that there needs to be more public disclosure at the start of clinical trials in order to reduce the possibility of bias in their findings. And, while the research team can’t specifically point to which factors contribute to the link between funding source and positive result reporting, the findings indicate that there needs to be more disclosure of all elements of a study — especially those funded by the pharmaceutical industry.
There is a possibility that not only is there a bias when it comes to publication, but also that these studies may be biased in their choice of study design, patient selection, data analysis, and results reporting.
A little food for thought. The next time you have an illness to treat, remember that “quick-fix” drugs may not be the best, most reliable solution. It could be that alternative remedies clinically tested may be a more unbiased and potentially beneficial way to regain good health. However, you should always check with your doctor before self-treating.