Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Slightly OffTopic: NEJM Article on BioPharma Research Credibility

Have you seen this special article in the NEJM entitled: A Randomized Study of How Physicians Interpret Research Funding Disclosures.  It is disturbing reading for all of us in the industry, including MA.

In the study, researchers presented 503 board-certified internists with three random studies with a high, medium and low level of methodological rigor.  And then randomly assigned each study one of three funding sources: NIH, Biopharma Industry, Not Disclosed.

The good news is that respondents generally assigned stronger credibility to studies with stronger methodologies.

The difficult news is that the internists believed the results of industry-sponsored were less credible than those that were NIH funded and with no funding disclosed.  And that results remained the same whether the study was of high rigor or low rigor.  Since the funding source was randomly assigned its clear that simply associating industry funding reduced credibility.

And the kicker – over 75% of the respondents accept support from industry in some manner, so these are not a bunch of ivory tower purists throwing stones.  These are exactly the people that MA needs to educate and these are exactly the kinds of studies that we use for that education.  Clearly we have a problem.

In an editorial that accompanies the study entitled Believe the Data, Dr. Jeffery Drazen suggests that physicians need to focus on the data and the rigor of developing that data.  As an industry, we need to echo that exact point.

We know where this skepticism comes from - too many newspaper stories of incomplete study disclosures, too many studies that seemed to lack rigor, too much willingness to spin results.

We cannot ignore this issue.  We need to hit it head on – discussing this now proven bias and why it should not impact the interpretation of results for a given study due to its rigor, etc.

Something that many of us have suspected for awhile, that industry science was being discounted simply because of funding, is now shown to be true.  We must address it openly because like any bias when it is pointed out to people they are less likely to be prey to it.

What do you think we can do to address anti-industry bias?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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