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Are Drug Companies Manipulating Drug Research?

A few years ago, I was working as a medical assistant for a local doctor. On my first day, a pharmaceutical rep came in and gave us a quick presentation about a drug that was used to fight fungal nail infections. He handed us a synopsis of the company’s research on the drug and said they found it to be most effective when taken every day for a number of months. After he left, the doctor showed me another study on the same drug, this time performed by an independent researcher. The independent research showed that the drug was just as effective when taken at a lower dose for a shorter period of time. The doctor cautioned me to remember that the reps only showed us the research that was paid for by the drug companies, and that data can be skewed and manipulated to reflect what the drug companies want doctors to believe.

Are Drug Companies Manipulating Drug Research? Vioxx

The fact that drug companies are manipulating drug research first came to light with the Vioxx (generic name: rofecoxib) controversy. Vioxx is considered to be the largest drug recall in history, and one which elicited one of the greatest public outcries. Merk, the manufacturer of Vioxx, was criticized for reporting data that downplayed the cardiovascular risks of Vioxx. The drug company manipulated drug research to make the drug seem safer and more effective. Since that time, doctors have been wary of industry-sponsored drug research. Vioxx was eventually pulled from the market, but not before 80 million patients had used it, with annual sales topping $2.5 billion.

Are Drug Companies Manipulating Drug Research? Selective Reporting

Unfortunately, drug companies continue to finance the majority of drug research. Drug companies will both fail to report negative outcomes and selectively publish only positive results from studies with mixed outcomes. Drug companies are often later shown to be well aware that the drug research does not support claims of efficacy or safety, but publish the biased research anyway.

In 2008, FDA officials analyzed 74 antidepressant trials, which included trials that were published and those that were not. Thirty-six of the trials had negative findings. Of the 36, 22 were not published at all, and 11 were published in a way that portrayed the negative results as though they were positive.

Are Drug Companies Manipulating Drug Research? Journal Bias

Medical journals have been traditionally considered by medical professionals to be a reliable source of information. Peer-reviewed medical journals often contain advertisements promoting drugs which are paid for by Big Pharma. In addition, many of the peer-reviewers are on the drug company’s payroll, and those who are not are unlikely to distinguish biased or flawed research.

Are Drug Companies Manipulating Drug Research? Profit

Drug companies have good reason to manipulate drug research. Big Pharma equals big money. In fact, year after year, for over two decades, this industry has been far and away the most profitable in the United States.

Are Drug Companies Manipulating Drug Research? The Danger

The danger of drug companies manipulating drug research is obvious. Well intentioned physicians can continue to prescribe a medication that is ineffective and unsafe based on the research provided by the drug companies.

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