Reporting bias widespread in medical literature

The selective reporting of trial results is a concern for those basing clinical or policy decisions on the results of published studies. In a review published last week in Trials, McGuaran and colleagues assess the prevalence of publication bias (non-publication of studies with negative or inconclusive results) and outcome reporting bias (non-reporting of specific outcomes within a published study) in the medical literature.


Reporting bias in medical research – a narrative review
Natalie McGauran, Beate Wieseler, Julia Kreis, Yvonne-Beatrice Schuler, Heike Kolsch, Thomas Kaiser
Trials 2010, 11:37 (13 April 2010)

This review of published articles on reporting bias identified cases relevant to 40 different conditions – including depression, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease – and involving more than 50 different interventions. Overestimation of efficacy and safety due to reporting bias have the potential to harm patients, and these worrying statistics prompt the authors to recommend worldwide, mandatory trial registration and publicly accessible results databases to help reduce reporting bias and allow for fully informed decision making. 

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