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Study suggests bias in industry research

A new study in Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that drug studies funded by industry are significantly more likely to have favourable outcomes

A new study in Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that drug studies funded by industry are significantly more likely to have favourable outcomes than those funded by the government or non-profit groups.

The Annals article looked at information posted on clinicaltrials.gov, the web-based government registry of clinical drug studies, for 546 safety and efficacy studies of drugs conducted between 2000 and 2006 in five commonly prescribed classes – anticholesteremics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, proton-pump inhibitors, and vasodilators.

The research found that industry-funded trials reported favourable outcomes in 85.4 per cent of publications, compared with 50 per cent for government-funded trials and about 72 per cent for studies funded by non-profits.

The company-funded research was also less likely to be published within two years after its conclusion than studies funded by other sources. About 56 per cent of the trials funded by non-profits were published within 24 months, while only about 32 per cent of those funded by industry were published during that same window. 

Sixty-three per cent, or 346, of the trials examined by the Annals authors were funded by industry, 14 per cent (74) were funded by government sources, and 23 per cent (126) by non-profit or non-federal organisations.

The Annals research was funded by the National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) said it was still reviewing the study, but that it had already identified a potential issue with the researchers' conclusions.

"While our review of the study continues, it is important to note that the authors acknowledge that industry-funded trials tended to be for later stages in the lengthy drug development process," the trade group said. "As the authors note, 'Later-phase trials may be more likely to have positive outcomes, because there is more certainty about the drug's efficacy and safety at this advanced stage in the drug-development cycle.'"

4th August 2010

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