Clinical trials in the modern regulatory environment are so expensive that many companies with a product that is going into a phase III clinical trial will just sell out to a Big Pharma company that can afford it. It's a necessary, yet somehow despised, business. Academics have claimed bias in clinical studies conducted by industry sponsors.

The belief is that scientists not in academia are controlled regarding the types of research questions to be answered by clinical trials, as well as their experimental design. Some papers suggest that even the results of some trials may be affected by industry-vested interests through several types of systematic errors such as reporting bias and violation of the uncertainty principle. Reporting and dissemination of positive results favor a higher rate of reporting in comparison with negative ones but academics do the same thing. There is no reason to throw good money after bad.

At least when it comes to lung cancer clinical trials, pharmaceutical industry support does not mean more bias compared to studies funded by other sources, they are actually stronger.

The authors analyzed 477 studies focusing on non-small cell lung cancer that were published between 2012 and 2017. His analysis focused on 275 trials sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry and 202 funded by other sources. These studies included 85,328 patients, 64,434 in studies sponsored by industry and 20,894 in studies with other funding sources. 

Dr. Aguiar's group assessed the risk of the following biases: randomization bias, allocation bias, performance bias, detection bias, attrition bias and reporting bias.

"We found that studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry had stronger evidence, evaluated more innovative therapies and resulted in a higher proportion of open access manuscripts than studies supported by other funding sources," said Pedro Aguiar Jr, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., M.B.A., Faculdade de Medicina do ABC Santo André, Brazil. There was no significant difference regarding the reporting of experimental arm superiority between the two groups or the risk of bias, he added.

In the United States, the amount of money available for the National Institutes of Health to invest in one year is approximately $39 billion, whereas the amount spent by the pharmaceutical industry per year amounts to approximately $100 billion. During the five years considered in this review, the proportion of studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry increased from 49% in 2012 to 65% in 2017.

"In our study, the results of pharmaceutical industry-sponsored trials did not favor the experimental arms compared with other sources of funding and the reporting bias was considered low for almost 90% of all included studies," Dr. Aguiar said.