Selective reporting of antidepressant trials exaggerates drug effectiveness

Jan 17, 2008

Selective publication in reporting results of antidepressant trials exaggerates the effectiveness of the drugs, according to a report in the January 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The report’s primary author is Erick Turner, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, physiology and phamacology at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Medical Director of the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Mood Disorders Program.

Turner and his colleagues examined reviews from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for trials of 12 widely prescribed antidepressant drugs approved between 1981 and 2004, involving 12,564 patients. They also conducted a systematic literature search to identify whether results of these studies had been published in medical journals. For trials that had been published, they compared the published version of the results with the FDA version of the results.

Whether and how the studies were published depended on how they turned out, Turner’s team found. According to the published literature, nearly all studies conducted (94 percent) had positive treatment results, but FDA data showed that in fact only about half (51 percent) of the studies were positive. Positive studies, with one exception, were all published. Most studies (33 out of 36) that were not positive either were not published or were published as if they were positive, in conflict with the FDA conclusions. These 33 studies involved 5,212 patients.

“Selective publication can lead doctors and patients to believe drugs are more effective than they really are, which can influence prescribing decisions, said Turner. He also cautioned that the surprisingly large number of negative studies does not mean that antidepressants are ineffective. His team found that each drug, when all its studies were combined using a statistical technique called meta-analysis, was superior to treatment with a placebo (sugar pill). On the other hand, this analysis also showed that each drug, based on the FDA data, was less effective than it would appear from the published literature.

Turner said that he and his colleagues don’t know whether the bias resulted from a failure of authors and sponsors to submit manuscripts, from decisions by journal editors and reviewers not to publish, or both. “Regardless, doctors and patients must have access to evidence that is complete and unbiased when they are weighing the risks and benefits of treatment,” he emphasized.

Source: Oregon Health & Science University

Explore further: NIH begins early human clinical trial of VSV Ebola vaccine

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Roads negatively affect frogs and toads, study finds

1 hour ago

The development of roads has a significant negative and pervasive effect on frog and toad populations, according to a new study conducted by a team of researchers that included undergraduate students and ...

Butterflies rely on connections amid changing climate

22 hours ago

Butterflies in Canadian mountain meadows rebounded after a severe population crash. Why? It's all about connections, found a study by the University of California, Davis, in collaboration with Western University ...

Plant communities produce greater yield than monocultures

23 hours ago

Diverse plant communities are more successful and enable higher crop yields than pure monocultures, a European research team headed by ecologists from the University of Zurich has discovered. The scientists are convinced ...

Cell architecture: Finding common ground

19 hours ago

When it comes to cellular architecture, function follows form. Plant cells contain a dynamic cytoskeleton which is responsible for directing cell growth, development, movement, and division. So over time, changes in the cytoskeleton ...

Recommended for you

Seaweed menace may yield new medicines

18 hours ago

An invasive seaweed clogging up British coasts could be a blessing in disguise. University of Greenwich scientists have won a cash award to turn it into valuable compounds which can lead to new, life-saving drugs.

Supercomputers link proteins to drug side effects

Oct 20, 2014

New medications created by pharmaceutical companies have helped millions of Americans alleviate pain and suffering from their medical conditions. However, the drug creation process often misses many side ...

User comments : 0