Do drug firms suppress unfavourable information about new products?
RICHARD FEYNMAN, a Nobel-prize-winning physicist, declared in a speech in 1974 that science requires “a kind of utter honesty”. He insisted that researchers must publicise all the outcomes of their work, and “not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another”. To judge by the mounting evidence of publication bias involving studies on new drugs, his words have not yet reached the pharmaceuticals industry.
A study published this week in PLoS Medicine, an online journal, confirms what many have suspected and what previous studies have hinted at: drug companies try to spin the results of clinical trials. If this were done merely in marketing materials, it might be tolerable. What Lisa Bero of the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues found, however, was troubling evidence of suppression and manipulation of data in studies published in (or often withheld from) peer-reviewed medical journals.