UCSF heart doctors uncover significant bias in TASER safety studies

May 9, 2011

The ongoing controversy surrounding the safety of using TASER® electrical stun guns took a new turn today when a team of cardiologists at the University of California, San Francisco announced findings suggesting that much of the current TASER-related safety research may be biased due to ties to the devices' manufacturer, TASER International, Inc.

In a research abstract presented at the Heart Rhythm Society's 32nd Annual Scientific Sessions at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, study author Peyman N. Azadani, MD, research associate at UCSF's Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiac Electrophysiology, and senior author Byron K. Lee, MD, associate professor of medicine in UCSF's cardiology division, set out to gauge the accuracy of 50 published studies on the potential dangers of using ® products. Lee directs the Electrophysiology Laboratories and Clinics in UCSF's Cardiology Division, and first published research on the safety of law enforcement use of TASERs in 2009.

The new study's authors report that among the product safety studies they analyzed, the likelihood of a study concluding TASER® devices are safe was 75 percent higher when the studies were either funded by the manufacturer or written by authors affiliated with the company, than when studies were conducted independently.

Azadani, Lee and three colleagues divided TASER safety study outcomes into four categories: harmful, probably harmful, unlikely harmful and not harmful. Of the 50 articles studied, 23 were funded by TASER International, Inc. or written by an author affiliated with the company. Nearly all (96 percent) of the TASER-supported articles concluded the devices were either "unlikely harmful" (26 percent) or "not harmful" (70 percent). In contrast, of the 27 studies not affiliated with TASER International, 55 percent found that TASERs are either "unlikely harmful" (29 percent) or "not harmful" (26 percent).

TASERs are the most popular brand of electrical stun guns, used primarily by law enforcement agencies to incapacitate combative suspects. The devices, also marketed for home use, deliver electrical pulses that stimulate the nervous system and cause involuntary muscle contractions. Advocates of using such conductive energy devices, or CEDs, say that they are effective and cause only temporary physical symptoms. Critics and scientists have raised concerns about the potential dangers of using TASER® devices, particularly on pregnant women, the elderly and very young, and individuals with underlying medical conditions.

Explore further: Changes to high-risk medical devices often supported by low-quality research

Related Stories

Changes to high-risk medical devices often supported by low-quality research

August 15, 2017
Clinical trials that test changes in the design or use of high-risk medical devices are often poorly designed, and can rely on inadequate or potentially biased data, according to a new study by researchers at the UC San Francisco ...

Patent talk: Car can respond to potential collision by altering car surface rigidity

August 15, 2017
(Tech Xplore)—Google has already emblazoned brand recognition to the phrase "driverless cars" but what about a new twist in soft driverless cars if and when applicable for safety sake?

IV and cellular fluids power flexible batteries

August 10, 2017
Researchers in China have engineered bendable batteries that can run on body-inspired liquids such as normal IV saline solution and cell-culture medium. In their work, published August 10 in the journal Chem, the authors ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Endocrine disrupters: potentially harmful chemicals for human hormones

July 5, 2017
Potentially harmful chemicals which can interfere with the normal functioning of human hormones are known as endocrine disruptors (EDs).

Device helps ICU patients by filtering out noise from medical alarms

June 21, 2017
A team of investigators at Vanderbilt University Medical Center wants to improve patient outcomes in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) settings by silencing audible medical alarms in hospital rooms.

Recommended for you

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 ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
not rated yet May 09, 2011
From my reading and participation in rights advocacy by the resistant community, "combative suspects" might better be characterized as resistant. To a cop carrying a hammer, all is nail. Good people ought to be armed as they will, with wits and Guns and the Truth.
frajo
not rated yet May 09, 2011
Critics and scientists have raised concerns about the potential dangers of using TASER® devices, particularly on pregnant women, the elderly and very young, and individuals with underlying medical conditions.
"Potential dangers"? Why didn't they tell how many people already have been killed with tasers?
This article is omitting important facts. Cui bono?

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.