Clinical trials are an essential part of the drug development process, providing evidence of a drug's effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness. In the United States, nearly 75% of clinical trial funding comes from corporate sponsors, such as pharmaceutical companies. This raises the potential for bias in the results of these trials, as pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in showing favorable results for their drugs. Dr.
Carome, Director of the Public Citizens Health Research Group in Washington, DC, states that “clinical trials for pharmaceuticals are conducted and funded by the industry” and that publication bias is a “major problem”. The decision to publish the results of a study rests with the researchers, including pharmaceutical companies. This means that the medical literature is a partial and often biased sample of all medical evidence. Funding for clinical trials can come from different sources, including government agencies, institutions or foundations, and private companies.
The National Institutes of Health is the main source of government funding for trials. Private industry is increasingly supporting clinical trials due to declining government funding over the past 10 years. The study sponsor typically pays all costs related to a clinical research study, including providing the new treatment and any special tests or additional visits to the doctor. In trials funded by pharmaceutical companies, statistically significant differences in the occurrence of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) between drug and control groups were significantly less common than in trials with other sources of funding.
This could allow pharmaceutical companies to falsify study results or hide dangerous side effects to get their drugs approved or increase sales. Drug manufacturers also don't like testing new drugs on older patients, even if this is the population that will likely use the drug once approved. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sponsors of clinical trials may be “a person who initiates and conducts an investigation” and focus on benefits rather than risks for profit. The potential for bias due to corporate sponsorship of drug trials is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed in order to ensure reliable results and patient safety.
Clinical trial participants should be aware that they may receive all study-related doctor visits, diagnostic tests, and treatments free of charge in exchange for voluntarily participating in the clinical trial.