In this age of information abundance, we haven’t been getting anywhere close to the whole story on prescription drug clinical trials for some time now.
Ben Goldacre calls the intentional skewing of published clinical trial results nothing less than “a cancer at the core of evidence-based medicine.” In one example of FDA trials for 12 antidepressants, Goldacre recounts the “staggering” publication bias: 37 positive and 3 negative studies were published, while 38 positive and 36 negative trials were actually completed. Unfortunately, the example isn’t isolated, but rather confirmed by over 100 studies on the problem, and it hasn’t been successfully addressed through initial solutions like trial registries.
Goldacre isn’t pulling any punches when he calls the suppression of negative studies nothing less than “research fraud,” and neither should we in demanding to know the truth about prescription drugs that are being pitched to doctors, patients, academics, regulators and insurers as proven effective.
When lives – and lots of cost – are on the line, the last thing the drug approval process should be proven effective at doing is lying.