November 13, 2007

Study: Studies funded by Drug Makers Underestimate Problems

Today's New York Times drew my attention to this study:

Adverse Effects of Inhaled Corticosteroids in Funded and Nonfunded Studies

It looked at studies of inhaled drugs and found two phenomena that should surprise no one who follows the news about any new drug.

1. Studies paid for by the company making the drug found far fewer side effects than studies of the same drug paid for by organizations that had no financial stake in the drug. The drug maker's studies were much more likely to describe a drug as "safe" or "effective" than were other studies.

2. The reason for this lay in the way that the studies were designed which appeared to make it easier to hide the side effects.

What's crucial here is that the misleading studies funded by the drug makers included the clinical trials used to get approval for the drug.

This should remind you that all the studies done to get approval for a drug are paid for by the company who will profit (greatly!) from the drug's sale. But this system ensures that the studies will be cooked as far as possible.

What does this mean for you? Simply this: for chronic conditions it makes sense to avoid new drugs no matter how well hyped until they've been in the marketplace for enough time that their real side effects will become apparent.

And don't trust those company funded studies that "prove" that the drugs cause much-yearned for benefits like weight loss or beta cell regeneration. Almost always these benefits disappear when the drug is studied by someone who isn't going to profit from its sale.


Anonymous said...

That is one big reason I am avoiding Apidra for the time being. It's just too new for me to trust. I had a CDE spend nearly 30 minutes trying so hard to convince me that it's the "best" thing for me, and that I NEED to change because everyone else she sees does so well on it, all her pumpers are on it, etc...all the while telling me that my numbers are great!

mscriver said...

I recall being urged - nearly commanded - to take estrogen "to protect your heart" even though I had no other particular reason to take it. Sure enough, years later, it turns out it would have been the wrong thing to do. It seems to me that the doctors themselves are not being taught proper skepticism in school. They are supposed to be our buffers AGAINST snake oil salesmen, not participants.

Prairie Mary

Scott S said...

Actually, I blame the FDA's user fees for this debacle. As I have noted in my own diatribes, the user fee system was established in the early 1990's as a way for the government to pay for the FDA without adding to the federal budget. But this has turned the FDA into an agency that tries to serve the needs of the drug industry, not the health and well being of the U.S. at large. We should bite the bullet and fund the FDA out of our tax dollars, rather than via funding from drug companies who are applying for FDA approval. I doubt this will change during the next year, but maybe we can clean house at the FDA when the next President is inaugurated.

Jenny said...


I agree with you completely. Unfortunately, the money these drug companies pour into the campaigns of all candidates make it unlikely that anyone is going to change the current system.