Detecting bias in the reporting of clinical trials

August 19, 2009,

A study by researchers at the University of Leicester has revealed new ways to spot whether medical research has hidden biases. Writing in the prestigious British Medical Journal, Santiago Moreno and his colleagues demonstrate how to spot 'publication bias' in the reporting of clinical trials which potentially form the basis of Government and NHS health policies. They also show what mathematical adjustments can be made to remove such unintended distortion of data.

Health policies are founded on 'clinical trials': experiments done in a laboratory or with groups of patients, which produce statistical results (because no two individuals are alike). Experimental results are published in medical journals after being thoroughly checked to ensure that all the methods used were fair and accurate - but 'publication bias' can affect what gets published.

For example, trials with negative results - showing that a treatment doesn't work - may be less likely to be published than those showing that it does. And this can create a distorted view of the treatment's effectiveness when policy-makers have to decide on whether it is worthwhile.

The University of Leicester researchers- examined two new methods of statistical analysis, using data on anti-depressant use available from the United States' (FDA). The FDA's data is considered 'gold standard' - free from bias - so it can be used to check whether statistics collected from journals, when adjusted, provide a true picture.

Both methods investigated by the Leicester team proved effective in identifying and eliminating publication bias from medical research.

Santiago's colleagues in the research project were Professor Alex Sutton, Professor Keith Abrams and Dr Nicola Cooper, from the Department of Health Sciences, plus collaborators at the Universities of Bristol and Oregon.

Source: University of Leicester (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.