FOX, MEET HENHOUSE….Shannon Brownlee says that allowing drug companies to fund most of the clinical studies of drug safety and effectiveness is like allowing the cigarette industry to fund most of the research into cigarettes and cancer:

The recent case of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics is instructive….Earlier this year, the American Journal of Psychiatry published an analysis of 30 separate trials involving head-to-head comparisons of five drugs. Nine out of 10 times, the drug made by the company that funded the study came out on top. When Eli Lilly, the maker of Zyprexa, funded five studies of its drug, Zyprexa was found superior in all five. But when Janssen, the maker of Risperdal, ran its studies, Risperdal came out ahead.

….Meanwhile, industry-funded research is failing to provide the clinically useful answers physicians and patients need in order to pick the best treatment….If we want answers to such questions, the public is going to have to start paying for them. Earlier this year, a $44-million National Institutes of Health study found that drug makers’ claims notwithstanding, not one of the five newer antipsychotic drugs offered any meaningful improvement over an older drug that cost up to 10 times less.

Shannon suggests an independent federal agency similar to the Fed or the SEC to oversee clinical research. If the medical community ? and the public ? wants genuinely neutral information about drug safety and efficacy instead of the heavily subsidized marketing literature that’s what we effectively get now, I suspect she’s right.

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