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When a Clinical Trial Goes Wrong

It's called the 'File Drawer Effect'

What happens to the results of studies that don't come out the way pharmaceutical companies want them to?

They often don't get published. It's a phenomenon researchers call the "file drawer effect," according to this article from USA TODAY . One out of five studies involving thousands of participants never sees the light of day, says the article.

"I think it's a problem of scientific integrity. People have a right to know the outcome of research, particularly when they were participants," says David Antonuccio, a researcher at the Reno Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The problem with concealing the results of disappointing studies is that drugs can look more beneficial than they actually are. And it's just as important for doctors and patients to know what doesn't work, according to Sanford Chodosh from Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research. "Great science needs negative results too," he says.

Others say they're not surprised that negative results don't get published, since many studies are financed by pharmaceutical companies.

Another concern about clinical trials is that the government agencies that monitor researchers may lack the proper authority to also monitor patients, reports this article from the Seattle Times.

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