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Cochrane review shows strong biases in pharma-funded studies

Pharma-sponsored drug and device trial studies are about 30% more likely to have results and conclusions that favour the sponsor, a new Cochrane Library review has found.

The review found that studies run by pharma companies routinely show greater efficacy and less harms. The authors outlined some common ways in which sponsors can influence study outcomes, including the framing of questions and selective reporting of favourable results. They pointed out that medical journals often do not effectively enforce the now-common requirement to disclose sponsors’ role in designing, conducting and publishing studies.

Cochrane’s review encompassed 75 papers including cross-sectional studies, cohort studies, systematic reviews and meta-analyses that quantitatively compared primary research studies of drugs or medical devices sponsored by industry with studies with other sources of sponsorship.

The Cochrane review was authored by Andreas Lundh, Joel Lexchin, Barbara Mintzes, Jeppe B Schroll, and Lisa Bero; it was published on 16 February 2017. The Canberra Times covered the review in an excellent article featuring an interview with senior author Lisa Bero of the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney.

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