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      Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy

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      New England Journal of Medicine

      Massachusetts Medical Society

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          Abstract

          Evidence-based medicine is valuable to the extent that the evidence base is complete and unbiased. Selective publication of clinical trials--and the outcomes within those trials--can lead to unrealistic estimates of drug effectiveness and alter the apparent risk-benefit ratio. We obtained reviews from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for studies of 12 antidepressant agents involving 12,564 patients. We conducted a systematic literature search to identify matching publications. For trials that were reported in the literature, we compared the published outcomes with the FDA outcomes. We also compared the effect size derived from the published reports with the effect size derived from the entire FDA data set. Among 74 FDA-registered studies, 31%, accounting for 3449 study participants, were not published. Whether and how the studies were published were associated with the study outcome. A total of 37 studies viewed by the FDA as having positive results were published; 1 study viewed as positive was not published. Studies viewed by the FDA as having negative or questionable results were, with 3 exceptions, either not published (22 studies) or published in a way that, in our opinion, conveyed a positive outcome (11 studies). According to the published literature, it appeared that 94% of the trials conducted were positive. By contrast, the FDA analysis showed that 51% were positive. Separate meta-analyses of the FDA and journal data sets showed that the increase in effect size ranged from 11 to 69% for individual drugs and was 32% overall. We cannot determine whether the bias observed resulted from a failure to submit manuscripts on the part of authors and sponsors, from decisions by journal editors and reviewers not to publish, or both. Selective reporting of clinical trial results may have adverse consequences for researchers, study participants, health care professionals, and patients. Copyright 2008 Massachusetts Medical Society.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Meta-analysis in clinical trials

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            Effect of rosiglitazone on the risk of myocardial infarction and death from cardiovascular causes.

            Rosiglitazone is widely used to treat patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, but its effect on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality has not been determined. We conducted searches of the published literature, the Web site of the Food and Drug Administration, and a clinical-trials registry maintained by the drug manufacturer (GlaxoSmithKline). Criteria for inclusion in our meta-analysis included a study duration of more than 24 weeks, the use of a randomized control group not receiving rosiglitazone, and the availability of outcome data for myocardial infarction and death from cardiovascular causes. Of 116 potentially relevant studies, 42 trials met the inclusion criteria. We tabulated all occurrences of myocardial infarction and death from cardiovascular causes. Data were combined by means of a fixed-effects model. In the 42 trials, the mean age of the subjects was approximately 56 years, and the mean baseline glycated hemoglobin level was approximately 8.2%. In the rosiglitazone group, as compared with the control group, the odds ratio for myocardial infarction was 1.43 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03 to 1.98; P=0.03), and the odds ratio for death from cardiovascular causes was 1.64 (95% CI, 0.98 to 2.74; P=0.06). Rosiglitazone was associated with a significant increase in the risk of myocardial infarction and with an increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular causes that had borderline significance. Our study was limited by a lack of access to original source data, which would have enabled time-to-event analysis. Despite these limitations, patients and providers should consider the potential for serious adverse cardiovascular effects of treatment with rosiglitazone for type 2 diabetes. Copyright 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society.
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              Empirical evidence for selective reporting of outcomes in randomized trials: comparison of protocols to published articles.

              Selective reporting of outcomes within published studies based on the nature or direction of their results has been widely suspected, but direct evidence of such bias is currently limited to case reports. To study empirically the extent and nature of outcome reporting bias in a cohort of randomized trials. Cohort study using protocols and published reports of randomized trials approved by the Scientific-Ethical Committees for Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, Denmark, in 1994-1995. The number and characteristics of reported and unreported trial outcomes were recorded from protocols, journal articles, and a survey of trialists. An outcome was considered incompletely reported if insufficient data were presented in the published articles for meta-analysis. Odds ratios relating the completeness of outcome reporting to statistical significance were calculated for each trial and then pooled to provide an overall estimate of bias. Protocols and published articles were also compared to identify discrepancies in primary outcomes. Completeness of reporting of efficacy and harm outcomes and of statistically significant vs nonsignificant outcomes; consistency between primary outcomes defined in the most recent protocols and those defined in published articles. One hundred two trials with 122 published journal articles and 3736 outcomes were identified. Overall, 50% of efficacy and 65% of harm outcomes per trial were incompletely reported. Statistically significant outcomes had a higher odds of being fully reported compared with nonsignificant outcomes for both efficacy (pooled odds ratio, 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4-4.0) and harm (pooled odds ratio, 4.7; 95% CI, 1.8-12.0) data. In comparing published articles with protocols, 62% of trials had at least 1 primary outcome that was changed, introduced, or omitted. Eighty-six percent of survey responders (42/49) denied the existence of unreported outcomes despite clear evidence to the contrary. The reporting of trial outcomes is not only frequently incomplete but also biased and inconsistent with protocols. Published articles, as well as reviews that incorporate them, may therefore be unreliable and overestimate the benefits of an intervention. To ensure transparency, planned trials should be registered and protocols should be made publicly available prior to trial completion.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                January 17 2008
                January 17 2008
                : 358
                : 3
                : 252-260
                10.1056/NEJMsa065779
                18199864
                © 2008
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