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How pharmaceutical industry funding affects trial outcomes: Causal structures and responses


  • Sismondo, Sergio


Three recent systematic reviews have shown that pharmaceutical industry funding of clinical trials is strongly associated with pro-industry results. This article builds on those analyses, situating funding's effects in the context of the ghost-management of research and publication by pharmaceutical companies, and the creation of social ties between those companies and researchers. There are multiple demonstrated causes of the association of funding and results, ranging from trial design bias to publication bias; these are all rooted in close contact between pharmaceutical companies and much clinical research. Given these points, most proposed measures to respond to this bias are too piecemeal to be adequate.

Suggested Citation

  • Sismondo, Sergio, 2008. "How pharmaceutical industry funding affects trial outcomes: Causal structures and responses," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(9), pages 1909-1914, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:66:y:2008:i:9:p:1909-1914

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daylian M. Cain & George Loewenstein & Don A. Moore, 2005. "The Dirt on Coming Clean: Perverse Effects of Disclosing Conflicts of Interest," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-25, January.
    2. Van Trigt, Anke M. & De Jong-Van Den Berg, Lolkje T. W. & Voogt, Linda M. & Willems, Jaap & T.Dirk Tromp, F. J. & Haaijer-Ruskamp, Flora M., 1995. "Setting the agenda: Does the medical literature set the agenda for articles about medicines in the newspapers?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 893-899, September.
    3. Sergio Sismondo, 2007. "Ghost Management: How Much of the Medical Literature Is Shaped Behind the Scenes by the Pharmaceutical Industry?," Working Papers id:1254, eSocialSciences.
    4. De Vries, Raymond & Lemmens, Trudo, 2006. "The social and cultural shaping of medical evidence: Case studies from pharmaceutical research and obstetric science," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(11), pages 2694-2706, June.
    5. Mather, Charles, 2005. "The pipeline and the porcupine: alternate metaphors of the physician-industry relationship," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(6), pages 1323-1334, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gabe, Jonathan & Chamberlain, Kerry & Norris, Pauline & Dew, Kevin & Madden, Helen & Hodgetts, Darrin, 2012. "The debate about the funding of Herceptin: A case study of ‘countervailing powers’," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2353-2361.
    2. Naci, Huseyin & Cooper, Jacob & Mossialos, Elias, 2015. "Timely publication and sharing of trial data: opportunities and challenges for comparative effectiveness research in cardiovascular disease," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 63797, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Unruh, Lynn & Rice, Thomas & Rosenau, Pauline Vaillancourt & Barnes, Andrew J., 2016. "The 2013 cholesterol guideline controversy: Would better evidence prevent pharmaceuticalization?," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 120(7), pages 797-808.
    4. Ozieranski, Piotr & McKee, Martin & King, Lawrence, 2012. "The politics of health technology assessment in Poland," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 108(2), pages 178-193.
    5. Padamsee, Tasleem Juana, 2011. "The pharmaceutical corporation and the 'good work' of managing women's bodies," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(8), pages 1342-1350, April.
    6. Timmermans, Stefan & McKay, Tara, 2009. "Clinical trials as treatment option: Bioethics and health care disparities in substance dependency," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 1784-1790, December.
    7. Lexchin, Joel & O'Donovan, Orla, 2010. "Prohibiting or 'managing' conflict of interest? A review of policies and procedures in three European drug regulation agencies," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(5), pages 643-647, March.


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