TUESDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Meta-analyses of drug studies, which are major reviews of published research, hardly ever include conflict-of-interest information from the original studies, researchers report.
"Most people know that the message has a lot to do with the messenger," said study senior author Brett Thombs, an assistant professor of psychiatry at McGill University and Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. "If we buy a new car, we want to know that someone other than the manufacturer thinks it works well and is safe . . . but a large proportion of drugs we use daily are evaluated only by the companies that produce them."
Guidelines require that conflicts of interest be disclosed when randomized controlled trials (considered the gold standard of science) are published, but there are no such guidelines for meta-analyses.
"We're suggesting that guidelines be updated to encourage meta-analyses to report conflicts of interest," said Michelle Roseman, lead author of the study, which is published in the March 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Although "we can't say for sure that a trial that has links to the pharmaceutical industry is biased, we know from the literature that that potential exists," said Roseman, who is a graduate student in psychiatry at McGill. "If there were a meta-analysis where most, or all, of the included trials were paid for or linked to the pharmaceutical industry, we would want to know that. We would have more confidence if there was a large independent trial as well."
Research has shown that positive results from drug trials are more likely to be published than negative ones and that trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry are more likely to be positive than those funded by other sources.
Just as important, meta-analyses tend to be cited more often than other studies and can dispropor
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