A new study by York’s Dr. Joel Lexchin shows that drug testing paid for by the pharmaceutical industry is more likely to produce results favouring the sponsor’s product than testing funded by other sources.
“These findings indicate a systematic bias in drug testing and this is a serious problem as an increasing number of clinical trials at all stages in a product’s life cycle are funded by the pharmaceutical industry,” said Lexchin, professor in Atkinson’s School of Health Policy & Management, an emergency physician at University Health Network and the study’s lead author. The findings appear in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.
“In the past few years there have been a number of high profile cases where manufacturers have attempted to suppress publication unfavourable to their products,” writes Lexchin. He praises the recent decision by major medical journals to establish more rigorous criteria for accepting industry-sponsored research as “a step in the right direction” but recommends that all clinical trials be registered in advance to ensure researchers have access to unpublished results.
“Clinical research sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry plays a role in determining the way medicine is practiced,” writes Lexchin. He notes that the industry now spends more on medical research than the National Institutes of Health in the United States, and most drug pharmaco-economic studies are either performed in-house by the drug companies or by external consultants paid for by the company.
For further details on the study and to learn some of the possible explanations for drug companies’ bias, offered by Lexchin, visit the Media Relations Web site at http://www.yorku.ca/ycom/release/archive/052903-2.htm.
To read the article in the British Medical Journal, visit http://bmj.com/current.shtml and enter Lexchin’s name.