Originally published January 5 2012
Busted! Scientists leave out data to produce bogus findings
by S. L. Baker, features writer
(NaturalNews) Clinical trials of drugs and other medical therapies are carefully carried out and are the very gold standard of scientific proof, right? According to an in-depth review of this question just published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ,) the answer is no. In fact, the BMJ is sounding the alarm that data reported by scientists is too often not the truth -- because the researchers leave out inconvenient evidence. The result of facts-gone-missing could well be harming patients, spiking up healthcare costs by the selling of medical treatments based on bogus findings, and threatening the very integrity of medicine.
These warnings come from multiple papers released by the BMJ. The whistle-blowing authors of these articles examined the extent, causes, consequences of hidden facts, figures, and other data scientists discover as they do human trials. It turns out this is no "once in a while" kind of problem, either. The BMJ claims a "large proportion of evidence from human trials is unreported, and much of what is reported is done so inadequately."
In an editorial, Dr. Richard Lehman from the University of Oxford and BMJ Clinical Epidemiology Editor, Dr. Elizabeth Loder, nail the current state of medical research as a "culture of haphazard publication and incomplete data disclosure." They call for full access to raw trial data to allow better understanding of the benefits and harms of many treatments.
Bottom line: when data is left out, the missing facts distort the scientific record and published results of a study. This then leads doctors to make potentially dangerous clinical decisions about what drugs or procedures patients need because the docs are relying on skewed and even bogus "evidence."
Conveniently missing facts left out of drug trials and morePapers in the current issue of BMJ include a study by Dr. Beth Hart and colleagues, which document how unpublished data is "conveniently missing" from many published meta-analyses of drug trials. That's right. Big Pharma's pills and potions are often pushed based on studies that simply ignore and leave out major data about what was really discovered about a medication lacking of benefits, potential dangers, side effects and more. Dr. Hart's team argues that access to full trial data is necessary to allow drugs to be independently assessed.
Two additional studies show the requirements for mandatory trial registration and timely sharing of results are poorly followed, if at all. For example, it turns out that less than half of US National Institutes of Health funded trials are published in a peer reviewed journal within 30 months of completion and only 22 percent of trials that are supposed to be subject to mandatory reporting had results available within one year of completion.
"When the word mandatory turns out to mandate so little, the need for stronger mechanisms of enforcement becomes very clear," the researchers report.
And what happens when ethical, dedicated scientists try to assess true harms vs benefits of Big Pharma drugs and other interventions? It's not a pretty picture for their careers, apparently. Additional studies published in the special BMJ issue highlight the many difficulties these researchers face when they try to buck the system.
Dr. Lehman and Dr. Loder, however, are bravely speaking out and directly saying that a concealment of data in clinical trials is anything but unusual. They label this "a serious ethical breach" and demand that clinical researchers who fail to disclose data "should be subject to disciplinary action by professional organizations. These changes have long been called for, and delay has already caused harm. The evidence we publish shows that the current situation is a disservice to research participants, patients, health systems, and the whole endeavor of clinical medicine."
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