British Medical Journal reported today that reviews of drugs, which are supported by the pharmaceutical industry are less transparent, and are likely to conclude sympathetically as compared to independent reviews, reveals a recently concluded study.
The authors opine that bias in drug trials is a common phenomenon and often favors the trial-sponsor's product. Independent reviews - which can have a more unbiased and systematic approach - are essential to counterbalance this negative approach. This would ensure that doctors and other health professionals have the right and accurate information that they need on drugs.
The authors, based in Denmark, undertook comparison of 24 pairs of reviews conducted by different people on the same drugs including 7 industry supported reviews. Independent reviews were observed to be of higher quality and less biased than those supported by the pharmaceutical industry.
The industry-supported reviews unilaterally recommended the experimental drug without reservation, while none of the independent corresponding independent reviews reached the same conclusion. Six of them had quality related reservations and two of them noted diminishing effect with increase in number of clinical trial subjects. Seven emphasized on the higher cost of the experimental drug as a problem. In comparison, all industry-supported reviews refrained from mentioning higher cost as a problem, while two actually claimed that the experimental drug was cost-effective.
Industry-supported reviews should be read with caution. Greater transparency, including the inclusion of more information on methodology and the estimated effects of the drugs allow readers to judge the reliability of drug reviews.