Legitimacy of Publishing Pharma-Funded Research Queried

Researchers present arguments for and against stopping publication of industry-funded research

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The question of whether to stop publishing research funded by the drug industry is addressed in a head-to-head piece published online Jan. 15 in BMJ.

Noting that BMJ has stopped publishing research funded by the tobacco industry because the editors believe the results to be compromised, Richard Smith, M.B., Ch.B., from Patients Know Best in London, and Peter C. Gøtzsche, M.D., from the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, reason that these same arguments could apply to drug company-funded research. The authors claim that it is difficult to trust the pharmaceutical industry's objectives. They feel that research is manipulated so that only favorable results are published; ghost writers are used to promote misleading trials; and that the drug companies may promote their business despite evidence of harms to patients.

Trish Groves, M.B.B.S., head of research at BMJ, notes that the drug and tobacco industries have different aims, with the drug industry producing products that are designed to improve health. Groves notes that many steps are being implemented to improve transparency, including mandating prospective trial registration, presentation of all results, and allowing access to patient level data on the benefits and harms of interventions.

"Fiona Godlee, the BMJ's editor in chief, said in her response to Richard Smith's challenge: 'If these efforts do not soon bring about a necessary sea change in the way industry funded trials are performed, the BMJ may well decide to stop publishing them,'" Groves writes.

Smith and Groves disclosed financial ties to BMJ, which in turn receives revenues from the pharmaceutical industry.

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