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Publication Bias—the Hidden Systematic Flaw in Medicine that Can Threaten Your Life

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  • Publication bias—the practice of selectively publishing trial results that serve an agenda—represents a systematic flaw of the scientific basis of medicine
  • Bias includes publishing positive results but not the negative ones, not publishing retractions of fraudulent studies, and funding bias
  • Half of all clinical trials ever completed on the medical treatments currently in use have never been published in the medical literature. Trials with positive results for the test treatment are about twice as likely to be published, and this applies to both academic research and industry studies
  • In 2010, researchers identified all the published trials for five major classes of drugs, and then measured two key features: Were they positive, and were they funded by industry? Out of a total of 500 trials, 85 percent of the industry-funded studies were positive, compared to 50 percent of the government-funded trials
  • Published studies are used by doctors and health agencies as the basis for making recommendations and writing prescriptions. When they’re given a radically skewed picture of the facts, they cannot make sound recommendations, and patients die

By Dr. Mercola

Exposure and concerns over medical research fraud is on the rise, and for good reason. Publication bias — the practice of selectively publishing trial results that serve an agenda — represents a “systematic flaw of the scientific basis of medicine,” Ben Goldacre says in his TED Talk above.


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