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Many medical journals have no policies regarding conflicts of interest in published research studies

Thursday, August 11, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: medical journals, conflicts of interest, health news

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(NaturalNews) The clinical trial analysis and research studies published in some medical journals -- and that are used directly by doctors to diagnose and treat patients -- could be posited in biased language due to secret financial ties to drug or medical device companies, and nobody would ever know it.

Of 131 cancer journals sampled, a research team found that only 112 of them had any kind of policy requiring published research to state potential conflicts of interest -- the other 19 had absolutely no policies whatsoever.

Research that appears favorable to a new chemotherapy drug, for instance, might have been secretly prompted and funded by a drug company. But this disclosure would not be required in the 19 cancer journals sampled -- and among the other 112, it may or may not be disclosed in a meaningful or consistent manner, the team found.

Researchers presenting the findings on the drug in the journal could additionally have been paid to speak highly of it and minimize its side effects -- and doctors and other readers would never know the difference.

"Journals can't even agree on what a conflict of interest means," said Dr. Aaron S. Kesselheim from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., to Reuters Health concerning the findings. "It is certainly confusing to authors and to readers."

Back in 2009, an analysis by researchers from the University of Michigan (U-M) Comprehensive Cancer Center found that many clinical cancer studies published in reputable medical journals are directly connected to pharmaceutical companies.

The analysis, which itself was published in the American Cancer Society journal CANCER, stated that conflicts of interest cause some researchers to report results that are favorable to drug companies, rather than those that are favorable to the actual truth (http://www.naturalnews.com/026314_cancer_res...).

Kesselheim and his colleagues pored through 1,700 reports derived from various "high-impact" journals, and among the 27 that included editorials, only about half had any sort of conflict of interest disclosures. The others were falsely presented as having come from objective sources.

"Physicians -- like other professionals -- are influenced by incentives, especially financial incentives," added Kesselheim concerning the findings. "Conflicts of interest and financial relationships can have an impact on the research process and on the reporting of research, and they can also have an impact on physician behavior."

By itself, disclosure of financial and economic ties is not enough to fix the problem of research fraud

Lack of consistency among disclosure policies in some journals, and the obvious lack of disclosure policies in others, are both highly problematic issues in medical research. But even if medical journals were to collectively agree on a consistent, standardized method of reporting conflicts of interest, this would not ultimately fix the problem of the inherent research fraud that persists behind the scenes.

Speaking about their research concerning conflicts of interest in medical studies, U-M researchers suggested that cancer research in general is so deeply connected to the conventional cancer industry that comprehensive reform would be necessary in order to effectively clean up and restore integrity to the entire body of medical research that gets published today.

"Given the frequency we observed for conflicts of interest and the fact that conflicts were associated with study outcomes, I would suggest that merely disclosing conflicts is probably not enough," said Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, and assistant professor of radiation oncology at U-M, in a media statement in 2009. "It's becoming increasingly clear that we need to look more at how we can disentangle cancer research from industry ties."

Ghostwriting is another major problem in medical journals, as drug companies routinely pay private consultants to pose as doctors and researchers, and write journal articles promoting various drugs and medical devices.

In 2010, an investigation revealed that numerous drug companies including Wyeth (which has since become part of Pfizer), paid writers thousands of dollars to promote synthetic hormone replacement drugs like Prempro (http://www.naturalnews.com/029696_drug_compa...).

The cancer industry is a racket, and almost all studies promoting expensive drugs are fraudulent

Anyone who has been following NaturalNews for a while probably already knows that the cancer industry is a multi-billion-dollar profit machine that thrives on generating fear, and promoting grossly expensive, highly ineffective, treatments.

Chemotherapy and radiation, which are the trademarks of conventional cancer treatment, are both completely ineffective at treating most major cancers -- and yet these are primarily what cancer journals promote (http://www.naturalnews.com/027705_chemothera...).

These treatments costs tens of thousands of dollars a month, in many cases, and are touted as the only known methods of treating cancer -- but in reality, they really do not treat anything, and typically kill patients faster than if they took nothing at all.

But savvy natural health enthusiasts know that there are legitimate, alternative methods of both preventing and treating cancer without the use of deadly drugs, radiation blasts, and surgery. These include formal methods like the Gerson therapy (http://www.naturalnews.com/033045_Gerson_tap...), and everyday nutritional and lifestyle changes (http://www.naturalnews.tv/Browse.asp?categor...).

In conclusion, a good rule of thumb to use when trying to decide whether or not a medical journal research paper is legitimate or not, is this: if it promotes expensive synthetic drugs or deadly treatments that have nothing to do with lifestyle and nutrition changes, it is likely an industry-funded treatment that should be avoided.

Sources for this story include:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/22/us...

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