The Story Behind Pharmaceutical Drug Trials

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You opened up your medicine cabinet this morning and popped your daily dose of high-blood-pressure medication. Your doctor prescribed it, the FDA approved it, it must be OK.

According to a new study out of Children’s Hospital in Boston, industry-funded clinical drug trials are more likely than independent funders to publish favorable results about the drug in question. The findings of this study are prompting calls for more rigorous oversight of how drug trials are designed.

The researchers found that when pharmaceutical firms or other industry players pay for a drug trial, that drug shows positive results 85 percent of the time. That’s compared to 72 percent for trials funded by non-profits or non-federal organizations and 50 percent for government-funded trials.

We speak with the study's lead author and WBUR's health and science reporter to take a closer look.


  • Florence Bourgeois, lead author of the study; emergency medicine physician at Children’s Hospital and an instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School
  • Sacha Pfeiffer, WBUR health and science reporter

This program aired on August 4, 2010.


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