Positive Drug Trial Outcomes: Bought and Paid For?

When assessing the results of medical studies, it's always important to consider the source of the funding for the research. According to a recent analysis of drug trials, those trials funded by pharmaceutical firms tend to have positive results; that is, the tests tend to show that the drugs perform as the manufacturer hoped.

The Los Angeles Times reports that industry-funded drug trials have positive outcomes a whopping 85 percent of the time. Compare that to the rate of positive outcomes when the federal government funds a test: 50 percent. When the trials are funded by nonprofit organizations or other non-government agencies, positive outcomes occur 72 percent of the time.

In the analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medical, researchers reviewed 546 drug trials.

Of course, results of the study come as little surprise to many observers of the pharmaceutical industry. Clearly, these global corporations have vested interests worth hundreds of millions of dollars in positive outcomes in clinical drug trials.

Pharmalive.com, a pharmaceutical industry website, discussed the findings of the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine with Florence Bourgeois, a faculty member in emergency medicine at Boston's Children's Hospital: "This raises concerns that the findings may, in part, be related to biases in trials -- the design or the way they are reported to the public," she said.

Bourgeois says the new research raises questions about whether the approval system of new drugs and medications used by the Food and Drug Administration provides sufficient oversight of the pharmaceutical industry.

The study of drug trials was itself funded by the National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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