If you listen to what advocates of homeopathy, acupuncture, or whatever form of so-called “alternative” medicine you can think of (in reality, non-evidence-based medicine for the most part), you’d think that physicians are in the pockets of Big Pharma, hopeless slaves to its propaganda, addicted to its tchotchkes and swag. Sadly for Big Pharma, they may not be having quite the effect it had hoped, if this roundtable discussion of primary care doctors about a study on NSAIDS and pain is any indication:
Should we believe this study?
Bob: When I decide to read an article, I first look at the title. Then I go to the last page to see if the study was sponsored by one of the makers of the product being studied. If so, my degree of skepticism heightens exponentially. This particular study happens to be sponsored by McNeil Pharmaceutical (the maker of extended-release acetaminophen).
Andrea: Same here. When pharmaceutical companies are involved in a study, there is a fourfold greater chance that the study will have a positive outcome than if the study was not funded by the industry.1 Somehow, the conclusions almost always come out in favor of the sponsor’s product.
Mark: My favorite example is when a review of 56 industry-sponsored trials of NSAIDs for osteoarthritis was performed, all 56 trials found NSAIDs to be beneficial. Not one trial had an unfavorable outcome.
Oh, no! Bob, Andrea, and Mark clearly haven’t gotten the memo. Of course, ultimately they agreed with the outcome of the study, even though it was sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, but they only did so because the study was well-designed and its results were in line with other studies. However, they concluded that for ankle sprains, good old-fashioned acetaminophen is just as good as the more expensive NSAIDS for analgesia.
Clearly more drug company dinners, pens, and freebies are required.