A research study reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine found that physicians are able to discriminate between clinical trials with high levels of rigor versus those with low levels of rigor, as well as between clinical trials that are funded by industry and those that are funded by the government.
The randomized study analyzed the responses of 269 physicians who were presented with hypothetical abstracts of clinical trial findings for three hypothetical drugs. Abstracts were deliberately crafted to reflect three levels of clinical trial rigor (low, medium, and high), and three types of funding disclosure (no disclosure, National Institutes of Health funding, and pharmaceutical industry funding), yielding 27 abstract types.
The major finding of the study was that physicians are less willing “to believe and act on trial findings, independent of the trial’s quality,” if the trial is funded by industry. That industry funding led to a decrease in perceived credibility, even for large and well-designed trials, concerned the study authors, who felt that “[t]he methodologic rigor of a trial, not its funding disclosure, should be a primary determinant of its credibility.”
The full article citation is: Aaron S. Kesselheim et al., A Randomized Study of How Physicians Interpret Research Funding Disclosures, 367(12) New Eng. J. Med. 1119 (Sept. 20, 2012). Available here.
[Editorial Note: And within the et al. is Chris Robertson, a former Petrie-Flom Academic Fellow, current prof at University of Arizona, and future guest blogger here at Bill of Health!]