2006: Review of Medical Journals Show Steadily Increasing Conflicts of Interest

When scientific research appears in a peer-reviewed journal, readers are supposed to be able to trust that the research is honest, unbiased and accurate — especially when it concerns prescription drug safety. Thus, when journalists at mainstream news publications in turn relay that scientific research to the general public, the public should be able to trust that information.

Unfortunately, in light of a recent review of major scientific journals, the information contained in many drug safety studies seems to be more corporate-spun PR than genuine science, especially when it concerns psychiatric drugs. According to new findings by a team of researchers from Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, between 1992 and 2002, the number of psychiatric drug studies paid for by pharmaceutical companies more than doubled — from 25 percent in 1992 to 57 percent in 2002.

Psychiatrist Igor Galynker and a team of researchers reviewed clinical research from four major psychiatric journals — Archives of General Psychiatry, American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology — and discovered that eight out of 10 studies paid for by the pharmaceutical company making the drug in question showed favorable results. That’s an unbelievable 80 percent success rate. Conversely, when studies were paid for by pharmaceutical companies competing with the firm making the drug in question, only three in 10 studies showed positive results. The studies conducted with no support from the pharmaceutical industry showed favorable results five out of 10 times.

The issue at hand is bias, and sadly, it’s not a new phenomenon. It is also not limited to psychiatric drug studies. According to a June 2006 Agence France-Presse (AFP) article, private drug companies finance 75 percent of the studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet in Britain. Do the math. That’s a lot of potential bias. …


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