Ties Between Researchers & Drug Industry Linked To Positive Trial Results
ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying
are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias
in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ today.
with industry are common among investigators of randomised clinical trials
(RCTs) - raising concerns about the effect that financial ties may have
on the evidence base. But studies investigating these relationships have
been conflicting. So a team of US based researchers set out to investigate
the association between financial ties of principal investigators and study
outcomes in a random sample of 195 drug trials published in 2013. They focused
on trials that examined the effectiveness of drugs, because these studies
have a high impact on both clinical practice and healthcare costs.
than half (58%) of principal investigators had financial ties to the drug
industry - including travel expenses, honorariums, payment for advisory
work, or stock ownership. The results show that trials authored by principal
investigators with financial ties to drug manufacturers were more likely
than other trials to report favourable results. Even after accounting for
factors that may have affected the results, such as funding source and sample
size, financial ties were still significantly associated with positive study
authors point to possible mechanisms linking industry funding, financial
ties, and trial results such as bias by selective outcome reporting, lack
of publication, and inappropriate analyses.They
stress that their analysis is observational and cannot be used to draw conclusions
about causation, but say, given the importance of industry and academic
collaboration in advancing the development of new treatments, "more
thought needs to be given to the roles that investigators, policy makers,
and journal editors can play in ensuring the credibility of the evidence
base." More research is certainly needed to identify how industry funding
and financial ties could influence trial results, say Andreas Lundh from
the University of Southern Denmark and Lisa Bero from the University of
Sydney in a linked editorial.
They urge trial authors to share their data and participate in industry
funded trials only if data are made publicly available - and suggest journals
could help by rejecting research by authors who are unwilling to share their
data and by penalising authors who fail to disclose financial ties. The
role of sponsors, or companies with which authors have ties, in the research
must also be transparent.
the meantime, trials with industry funding or authors with financial ties
"should be interpreted with caution until all relevant information
is fully disclosed and easily accessible," they conclude.
information: Rosa Ahn et al. Financial ties of principal investigators and
randomized controlled trial outcomes: cross sectional study, BMJ (2017).
comments: The outcome of this study is of course no surprise. A trillion-dollar-a-year
industry, the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in drug trials
producing positive results. Towards achieving this, as a means of influencing
the outcomes of their studies, pharma companies deliberately seek to create
financial ties between themselves and the research scientists who carry
example of this came in January 2016, when a widely-promoted hypertension
study claimed that many more people should be taking “intensive blood
pressure-lowering” drugs to reduce their risk of heart attacks and
strokes. Published in The Lancet medical journal in the form of a meta-analysis
of 19 trials, the paper essentially asserted that all people deemed to be
at risk should be given drug medication – even if their current blood
pressure level is normal and irrespective of the danger of severe side-effects.
Significantly, however, in its promotion of the study, the mass media failed
to draw attention to the fact that half of the researchers who carried it
out had connections to multinational drug companies or pro-pharmaceutical
mention of financial payments made to the researchers by the drug industry
and its stakeholders was notably absent in the media. Unreported by the
world’s newspapers, the monies paid included grants, honoraria, travel
reimbursement, personal fees, and salary support. Just as worryingly, nor
did the media either make mention of the fact that several of the researchers
have been on drug company steering committees or advisory boards.