University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Industry Funding Changes Study Results, Research Shows

By | December 17, 2012

Industry Funding Changes Study Results, Research Shows

Lisa Bero, PhD

Drugs and medical devices tend to appear more beneficial in scientific papers if they were manufactured by the company that sponsored the study, showing that who pays for the clinical trial has a direct impact on the reported outcome, according to a new analysis by researchers at UCSF and the Cochrane Collaboration.

Lisa Bero, PhD, a UCSF professor of clinical pharmacy and health policy who heads the San Francisco branch of the U.S. Cochrane Centre, at UCSF; and Joel Lexchin, MD, a professor of health policy at York University, in Toronto. A definitive analysis in 2003 by Bero and Lexchin found discrepancies across drug studies sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.
Clinical studies on drugs and medical devices are routinely used by physicians worldwide to assess which medications are most effective and appropriate for their patients. However, that research is increasingly sponsored by the pharmaceutical or device companies that make these products, either because the companies directly perform the studies or fund them. The team set out to assess whether that sponsorship continues to have an impact on results.
"We found that papers reporting the results of industry-sponsored studies present a more favorable picture of the effects of drugs and medical devices than those reporting on studies that were not sponsored by industry," said Andreas Lundh, of the Nordic Cochrane Centre at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, who led the new research and is first author on the paper.
"Of a particular interest was our finding that when two drugs were compared head-to-head in an industry-sponsored study, the drug that came out most favorable in a specific study was most often the drug manufactured by the sponsor of that study," Lundh said.
A Call To Action With Clinical Trials
The current analysis more than doubled the number of studies from the 2003 review, to a total of 48, and included papers on both drugs and medical devices for conditions ranging from heart disease to psychiatric illnesses. The number of favorable results was 24 percent higher in industry-sponsored studies, compared to non-industry sponsored ones, and included reports of both greater benefits from the drug or medical device and fewer harmful side effects. The team also found that industry-funded papers were more likely to report conclusions that were inconsistent with the papers' results sections.