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Open Access Research article

Funding source, trial outcome and reporting quality: are they related? Results of a pilot study

Tammy J Clifford12*, Nicholas J Barrowman1234 and David Moher1245

Author Affiliations

1 Chalmers Research Group; Ottawa, Canada

2 Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute; Ottawa, Canada

3 School of Mathematics & Statistics, Carleton University

4 Department of Paediatrics, University of Ottawa; Ottawa, Canada

5 Department of Epidemiology & Community Medicine, University of Ottawa; Ottawa, Canada

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BMC Health Services Research 2002, 2:18  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-2-18

Published: 4 September 2002

Abstract

Background

There has been increasing concern regarding the potential effects of the commercialization of research.

Methods

In order to examine the relationships between funding source, trial outcome and reporting quality, recent issues of five peer-reviewed, high impact factor, general medical journals were hand-searched to identify a sample of 100 randomized controlled trials (20 trials/journal). Relevant data, including funding source (industry/not-for-profit/mixed/not reported) and statistical significance of primary outcome (favouring new treatment/favouring conventional treatment/neutral/unclear), were abstracted. Quality scores were assigned using the Jadad scale and the adequacy of allocation concealment.

Results

Sixty-six percent of trials received some industry funding. Trial outcome was not associated with funding source (p= .461). There was a preponderance of favourable statistical conclusions among published trials with 67% reporting results that favored a new treatment whereas 6% favoured the conventional treatment. Quality scores were not associated with funding source or trial outcome.

Conclusions

It is not known whether the absence of significant associations between funding source, trial outcome and reporting quality reflects a true absence of an association or is an artefact of inadequate statistical power, reliance on voluntary disclosure of funding information, a focus on trials recently published in the top medical journals, or some combination thereof. Continued and expanded monitoring of potential conflicts is recommended, particularly in light of new guidelines for disclosure that have been endorsed by the ICMJE.