New research indicates manufacturer sponsorship sways the outcome of cost-effectiveness studies for new drugs, casting the spotlight on financial arrangements between investigators and drugmakers.
A study in the Oct. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association follows reports that linked manufacturer sponsorship with more favorable results in safety and efficacy studies.
Researchers with Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and Swarthmore (Pa.) College reviewed economic analyses of six breakthrough cancer drugs. Of the 44 articles reviewed, 20 were funded by manufacturers and 24 by nonprofit organizations.
Unfavorable conclusions were reached by 38% of nonprofit-sponsored studies and only 5% of pharmaceutical-company-sponsored studies, said the report.
The study offered several possible explanations, including one that pharmaceutical companies tend to fund research likely to yield positive outcomes after receiving "early looks" at clinical trials. But it said monetary rewards to investigators-including consultant arrangements, educational funds, honoraria, research grants, a share of drug profits and travel awards for scientific meetings-may result in "unconscious bias."
It concluded that literature would be more balanced if managed-care organizations, government and nonprofit groups boosted their research funding, called for full disclosure of investigators' financial interests and eliminated opportunities for selective funding of research by drugmakers. However, the study said limiting the publication of drugmaker-sponsored studies is "probably not feasible" given that drugmakers are the primary funding source for research on their own products.
The study was paid for by a grant from Amgen, a Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based drugmaker.