Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Positive Drug Trials More Likely to be Published

A new Cochrane systematic review finds that research is more likely to end up in print if it has a certain ‘wow’ factor; this confirms suspicions that studies with low-key results often get neglected. Obviously, this sheds light on categories like anti-depressants where it has been reported that most negative ("this stuff didn't work") trials just don't get published.

Based on the findings of five studies, the Cochrane (Cochrane Collaboration is an international nonprofit, independent organization) review estimates that trials are 1.78 times more likely to be published if they are perceived as important, reveal a positive effect or offer scientifically significant findings.

Kay Dickersin, co-author, said “If positive results are published more often than negative, what we think we know isn’t really what we know. We might think a drug works, when it really doesn’t work, because the negative results haven’t been published,” said Dickersin, director of the U.S. Cochrane Center at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library. All of the studies summarized found that publication was more likely for trials with positive findings. The studies suggested that only 41 percent of negative trials — those that show a drug or treatment has bad effects or none at all — make their way to print. By contrast, the researchers estimated that journal editors publish about 73 percent of positive studies.

This shows a sad and highly unethical side of pharmaceutical science.


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