|Industry Funding Skews Kids and Drugs Research,
Bias in Medical Literature on Pediatric
A new study of medical journal reports on the effectiveness of
antidepressants in children shows that drug industry-funded research
is much more likely to be positive than independently-funded
research, and both are far more positive than the Food and Drug
Administration’s (FDA) assessment of the drugs’ tests.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 96
percent of the industry-funded efficacy studies of drugs like
Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil in children were positive. That compares
to just 63 percent of independently funded studies published in
If one looks at just published clinical trials that contained a
placebo-controlled arm, industry-funded clinicians reported the
drugs were effective in 9 out of 10 cases. But among researchers not
funded by industry, only 5 out of 9 reported positive results, which
is surprisingly low given that other studies have shown that medical
journals are biased toward publishing positive reports. By
comparison, just 3 of 15 FDA reviews of pediatric antidepressant
trials, many of which have not been published, were positive.
"Regrettably, drug companies see medical journals as just another
cog in their public relations machine," said Merrill Goozner,
director of the CSPI Integrity in Science Project. "Industry funding
has skewed the published literature and through that medical opinion
on the use of these drugs in kids."
Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil are among a class of antidepressants
known as selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). A joint
meeting of the FDA’s Psychopharmacologic and Pediatric Advisory
Committees is meeting on Monday to discuss the possible connection
between this class of drugs and suicide in youths. As the FDA
reviewer pointed out in his review before today’s meeting,
"Ultimately, this is a risk benefit assessment, so it is important
to know where we stand on the benefit side of the issue."
While most researchers believe their funding source does not
influence their results, this study echoes numerous previous studies
finding that published research that is industry-funded is much more
likely to show results favorable to the sponsor than independent
research funded by either government or academic institutions.
"The pharmaceutical industry’s domination of this field of
research has biased the published record," Goozner said. "That fact
should be taken into account when evaluating the alleged benefits of
these drugs versus their potential risks."