Clinical trials need to be fair and unbiased, but recent research has found that clinical trials with financial connections to the pharmaceutical industry tend to produce more positive results. This news is worrisome, as it could mean that some treatments and medicines are less effective than they seem.
According to the BMJ, data that has been gathered from nearly 200 clinical trials has found that trials that have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry had 3.57 greater odds of a positive trial outcome. These findings suggest that there is a bias within clinical trials that needs to be eliminated.
The researchers found that 231 (58%) of principle investigators had financial ties to commercial companies that would be affected by the results of the trial. Most of the principle investigators worked as an adviser or a consultant for one of the commercial companies.
This affected the results, as the principle investigators had financial ties in 76% of the trials with positive outcomes, but they only had ties with 49% of the trials with negative outcomes.
The researchers also noted that trials with negative outcomes often remain unpublished, unlike trials with positive outcomes. However, it is possible for investigator bias to be present in the conclusion of negative trials so that there is still a positive spin on a negative trial.
Another issue is that sometimes the results of a trial don’t make sense. For instance, if the results were negative, the commercial companies may try to alter the conclusion. This can mean that sometimes the conclusions don’t match the actual results from the trial, which affects the reliability of the results.
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How to Make Clinical Trial Results More Reliable and Trustworthy
The main issue that affects the credibility of clinical trial results is the problems of bias within clinical trials. The researchers, who work at the University of California, believe that more thought needs to be given to the roles of policy-makers and investigators when it comes to ensuring credible unbiased results. The researchers went on to propose that the best way to fix the issues with bias in clinical trials would be to take multiple steps at once to deal with the problem.