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Negative drug trials unreported

January 21, 2008|From Times wire reports

Nearly one-third of antidepressant drug studies are never published in the medical literature, and nearly all happen to show that the drug being tested did not work, researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

And in some of the studies that are published, unfavorable results have been recast to make the medicine appear more effective than it really is, said the research team led by Erick Turner of the Oregon Health & Science University.

Even if not deliberate, they wrote in their report, "Selective publication can lead doctors to make inappropriate prescribing decisions that may not be in the best interest of their patients."

The Turner team studied a Food and Drug Administration registry in which companies are supposed to log details of their drug tests before the experiments are begun.

Of the 74 studies approved between 1987 and 2004 for 12 antidepressants, 38 produced positive results for the drug. All but one of those studies were published. However, when it came to the 36 studies with negative or questionable results, as assessed by the FDA, only three were published, and 11 were turned around and written as if the drug had worked.

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