publishing clinical trials financed by the industry
“Medical reviews constitute an extension of the pharmaceutical companies’ marketing arm “: maintains Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal and now general director of UnitedHealth Europe, in a provoking leading article in the magazine “PLoS Medicine”.
The most evident example of medical reviews’ dependence on the pharmaceutical industry is the quantity of money that they receive from drugs’ publicity, but according to Smith, this would be the “less corrupt form of dependence”, since advertisements “may be seen and criticized by everybody”.
The greater problem, is instead that of publishing clinical trials financed by the industry. “For a pharmaceutical company – he explains – a favourable study is worth more than thousands of publicity adevertisements.”
“This is why firms spend sometimes millions of dollars to reprint and spread all over the world the results of the researches”. Unlike the ads, the studies’ reliability is perceived by the readers in a more positive manner.
“Lukily for pharmaceutical companies which have funded these studies, but not so much for the credibility of the magazines which publish them, trials rarely produce unfavourable results for the products of the same company”. Quoting instances from 86 different studies, Smith demonstrates that the results of the trials are infuenced by those who finance them.