Study finds no (unique) industry bias in published trial results

A number of studies in recent years reached the conclusion that industry-backed clinical trials tend to skew toward the positive when you compare the data detailed by the nonprofit sponsors in the medical journals. The theory, echoed endlessly by the industry's critics, is that with so much money at stake, biopharma companies tend to highlight their successes and hide their mistakes. And the Pollyanna principle suggests the industry's bias can provide a distorted R&D picture to practitioners.

But now a new study examining outcomes for dozens of published reports mounted for experimental rheumatoid arthritis drugs finds that the success rate among the two groups is remarkably similar. Altogether 37 of 49 studies backed by manufacturers turned out positive, compared to 11 of 16 studies undertaken by nonprofit groups. That's nearly a statistical match.

"It would be nice if industry studies were not biased as the literature suggests," Columbia University's David Rothman told Reuters Health. "Nobody wants to demonize the industry." But then, Rothman added, maybe this new comparison of results should have come to a different conclusion. It could be that nonprofit groups are just as anxious as their for-profit colleagues to tout the positive and shelve the negative.

And then the journals may be ultimately to blame, as they prefer a positive study to a negative one, noted Rothman. The same certainly can't be true for many of the news organizations that cover clinical trial results. With investors and patient advocates anxious to track every advance and setback, a decisive clinical failure still warrants a close look and fresh headlines.

- here's the story from Reuters Health

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