Head To Head

Should journals stop publishing research funded by the drug industry?

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g171 (Published 14 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g171
  1. Richard Smith, chair1,
  2. Peter C Gøtzsche, director2,
  3. Trish Groves, head of research 3
  1. 1Patients Know Best, London SW4 0LD, UK
  2. 2Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. 3BMJ, London WC1H 9JR, UK
  1. Correspondence to: R Smith richardswsmith{at}yahoo.co.uk, T Groves tgroves{at}bmj.com

The BMJ no longer publishes research funded by tobacco companies. Richard Smith and Peter Gøtzsche say that research funded by drug companies is also flawed and published to encourage sales, but Trish Groves says that the industries are fundamentally different and that moves are afoot to increase integrity

Yes— Richard Smith and Peter C Gøtzsche

The BMJ and its sibling journals have stopped publishing research funded by the tobacco industry for two main reasons: the research is corrupted and the companies publish their research to advance their commercial aims, oblivious of the harm they do.1 But these arguments apply even more strongly to research funded by the drug industry, and we suggest there is a better way to communicate the results of trials that would be safer for patients.

Prescribed drugs are the third leading cause of death, partly because of flaws in the evidence published in journals. We have long known that clinical trials funded by the drug industry are much more likely than publicly funded trials to produce results favourable to the company.2 The reason is obvious. The difference between an honest and a less than honest data analysis can be worth billions of euros, and the fraudulent trials of some cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors for arthritis and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for depression are good examples.3 4 5

Industry cannot be trusted

There are many clever ways in which companies manipulate their research,6 and two recently published books give dozens of examples.3 7 Flaws in the coding of adverse events can distort results without leaving any trace of what has happened, as we cannot get access to the raw data the drug companies hold. Three large trials of prasugrel, rosiglitazone, and ticagrelor made by Daiichi Sankyo and Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and AstraZeneca, respectively, published in the New England Journal of Medicine were shown to be …

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