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Industry sponsorship increases risk of clinical trial bias

Industry sponsored clinical trials present a more favourable picture of the effects of drugs and medical devices than non-industry sponsored trials, according to Queen’s researcher Sergio Sismondo (Philosophy).

Dr. Sismondo and his research partners conducted a systematic review of 48 studies on drugs and medical devices. They found studies sponsored by industry reported greater benefits and fewer harmful side effects compared to studies not sponsored by industry.

 “Outcomes of clinical trials influence the recommendations that doctors make about drugs and other medical interventions,” says Dr. Sismondo. “It is that important trials be designed, carried out and reported on without bias towards particular products. The fact that trials are increasingly sponsored by industry makes bias much more likely.”

The researchers Andreas Lundh, Joel Lexchin, Octavian Busuioc, and Lisa Bero, recommend that new guidelines be developed for systematic reviews. This would improve reliability by treating industry sponsorship as a factor that creates a risk of bias.

The drugs and devices being studied were prescribed for a wide range of different diseases including heart disease and psychiatric conditions.

The results of the study were published in The Cochrane Library.