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Report: Physicians Don’t Trust Pharma-Funded Trials

Docs were twice as willing to prescribe drugs assessed in NIH-funded studies (Sept. 20)

Industry sponsorship negatively influences how physicians perceive the methodologic quality of published studies and reduces their willingness to believe and act on study findings, independently of the study's quality, according to an article published in the September 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

To determine how pharma support affects physicians' reactions to published trials, researchers at Harvard Medical School presented 503 board-certified internists with reports that the researchers had designed describing clinical studies of three hypothetical drugs. Each abstract included one of three support disclosures: funding from a pharmaceutical company, National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, or no disclosure. Follow-up questions assessed the physicians' impressions of the trials' rigor, their confidence in the results, and their willingness to prescribe the drugs.

A total of 269 physicians (54%) responded to the survey. Disclosure of industry funding, as compared with no disclosure of funding, caused physicians to downgrade the rigor of a trial (odds ratio [OR], 0.63; P = 0.006), their confidence in the results (OR, 0.71; P = 0.04), and their willingness to prescribe the hypothetical drugs (OR, 0.68; P = 0.02). Physicians were half as willing to prescribe drugs studied in industry-funded trials as they were to prescribe drugs evaluated in NIH-funded studies (OR, 0.52; P < 0.001).

"Pharmaceutical companies seeking to enhance the appropriate use of important new products or to expand the appropriate uses of existing products must address the attitudes that our survey revealed, so that the credibility of the results of industry-supported trials is more likely to be based on methodologic rigor than on funding sources," the authors said.

For more information, visit the NEJM Web site.

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