The majority of scientific studies are sponsored by corporations as a result of the cutbacks in public funding dedicated to scientific research. According to a recent study, most of the corporations financing research are pharmaceutical companies, while the number of clinical studies funded by NIH (National Institutes of Health) decreases.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on December 15.
The team of researchers took data from ClinicalTrials.gov, a registry run by the government where, since 2005, researchers are required to subscribe their trials if they intend to publish them in an academic journal. The website is maintained by the NIH’s National Library of Medicine.
The researchers have analyzed the database, looking at registered trials from 2006 to 2014 and their funders. Their findings show an increase with 43 percent of the trials funded by pharmaceutical companies in that period, from 4,585 in 2006 to 6,550 in 2014. During the same period, trials funded by NIH decreased by 24 percent, from 1,376 in 2006 to 1,048 in 2014.
Researchers say that the decrease of funding by NIH might be a result of the cuts made by the federal government. The budget of NIH decreased with 14 percent from 2006 to 2014.
Dr. Stephan Ehrhardt, the leading researcher of the study argues that the decline of public funding and of independent trials offers less information which is not influenced by financial interest. Ehrhardt suggests that researchers doing trials funded by the government are more likely to start from the assumption that the studied treatments are equal because of the lack of financial interest.
On the other side, researchers funded by private companies are more likely to be biased, trying to please the funder to ensure future funding for their teams and their research labs. A report issued last September comes to the same conclusion, after it revealed that 10 percent of the board positions in medical and pharmaceutical companies are being occupied by researchers who are also holding positions in academic or nonprofit research institutions.
However, efforts are being made to limit the bias. One of them is the Physician Sunshine Act that passed in 2010 as a part of A.C.A. which requires all medical and pharmaceutical companies to report the payments made to any medical centers and to any physicians, from funding their research to honorariums and speaking fees.
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