The trials, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, were of low, medium or high methodological rigour and each report included details of supposed pharmaceutical-company or government funding or no funding information.
Doctors were 37% less likely to consider prescribing a drug on the basis of studies they were told were drug-industry funded than if they were given no funding information. They were also 48% less likely to consider prescribing on the basis of a drug-industry study than government-funded research.
Commenting on the finding, the researchers said that the respondents ‘downgraded the credibility of industry-funded trials’. ‘The magnitude of this reduction in perceived methodologic rigour was about the same as that for low-rigour trials as compared with medium rigour
trials,’ they said.
‘Well-publicised controversies related to industry-funded research may help explain these findings,’ they suggested.
The researchers suggest that this mistrust of industry-funded research could have serious consequences. ‘Mistrust of trials supported by industry could hinder the appropriate translation of the results into practice,’ they said.
They added: ‘Pharmaceutical companies seeking to enhance the appropriate use of important new products or to expand the appropriate uses of existing products must address the attitudes that our survey revealed, so that the credence given to the results of industry-supported trials are more likely to be based on methodologic rigour than on funding sources.’