It's been hinted at for years, but the phenomenon known as the "file drawer effect" has come back to haunt the pharmaceutical industry. It's no shock to many experts, but the public is generally not aware of the fact that many pharmaceutical industry research studies are not published. Oddly (sarcasm intended) those studies tend to be the ones which showed that the drug was not effective.
In particular, it has been discovered that in the antidepressant drug arena, many of the clinical trials published in the medical literature were positive. The others? Sitting in a file drawer somewhere.
A research team led by Erick Turner of the Oregon Health & Science University has published an exposé on this practice, referring to the phenomenon as "selective publication."
"Even if not deliberate, this can be bad news for patients" the authors say in this publication from the New England Journal of Medicine. "Selective publication can lead doctors to make inappropriate prescribing decisions that may not be in the best interest of their patients and, thus, the public health," they wrote.
Here's an example . . . 74 studies were started for 12 leading antidepressants. Of these, 38 produced positive results for the drug. With the exception of one, all of those trials were published. On the other hand, only three of the 36 studies with negative or questionable results were published. Another 11 were written up in a style that made it appear as if the drug had worked.
"Not only were positive results more likely to be published, but studies that were not positive, in our opinion, were often published in a way that conveyed a positive outcome," said the authors.