A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology has found that industry-sponsored clinical trials comparing different treatments “systematically yield favourable results for the sponsors.” Researchers looked at 319 trials with over 100 participants published in academic journals in 2011. Of the 182 trials funded by pharmaceutical companies 83% had positive results compared to 59% of trials funded by non-profit institutions.

Dr Ben Goldacre, author and co-founder of AllTrials, told The Times (£):

“The simplest strategy to get the answer you want is simply this: run lots of trials, which will have a range of results due to the inevitable play of chance, but bury the unflattering results, and publish only the good ones. This practice is still entirely legal, and very common, even though it is clearly a form of research misconduct.”

The researchers say they couldn’t tell “whether such a high success rate occurs among all trials including those that remain unpublished or whether pharmaceutical companies selectively fund trials on drugs that they consider to be superior to the competition.”


Flacco, Maria Elena et al. “Head-to-head randomized trials are mostly industry sponsored and almost always favor the industry sponsor.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, Volume 68, Issue 7, 811 – 820. Open Access