Intended for healthcare professionals


Money back guarantees for non-reproducible results?

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 24 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2770
  1. Eric J Topol, director
  1. Scripps Translational Science Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
  1. etopol{at}

There are better solutions to the “reproducibility crisis” in research

Money back guarantees are generally unheard of in biomedicine and healthcare. Recently, the US provider Geisenger Health System, in Pennsylvania, started a programme to give patients their money back if they were dissatisfied.1 That came as quite a surprise. Soon thereafter, the chief medical officer at Merck launched an even bigger one, proposing an “incentive-based approach” to non-reproducible results—what he termed a “reproducibility crisis” that “threatens the entire biomedical research enterprise.”2

The problem of irreproducibility in biomedical research is real and has been emphasised in multiple reports.3 4 5 In the same vein, the retraction of academic papers has been rising, attributable, in nearly equal parts, to irreproducible results or data that have been falsified.6

But this problem is not confined to basic science or animal model work from academic laboratories. Clinical trials, the final common pathway for the validation and approval of new drugs, have been plagued with serious drawbacks.

The bad science in clinical trials has been well documented and includes selective publication of …

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