Nearly a year and a half ago, we covered the topic of drug industry influence on medical journals and research. The lead story in yesterday's Washington Post treats the topic in detail, noting that even the most prestigious medical journals have trouble avoiding bias in favor of the industry. The Post piece focuses on a major article that trumpeted the anti-diabetes drug Avandia, which later became associated with heart attacks. I strongly recommend the entire article. Here's a short excerpt:
The odds of coming to a conclusion favorable to the [drug] industry are 3.6 times greater in research sponsored by the industry than in research sponsored by government and nonprofit groups, according to a published analysis by Justin Bekelman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues. Moreover, at the same time that companies have been funding a larger share of research, they have shifted the job of conducting trials away from nonprofit academic hospitals to for-profit “contract research organizations.” Critics say that with this change, corporate bias is less likely to be challenged.