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News Media Under-Report Drug Company Funding of Research

Few newspapers have written policy on reporting funding and using generic names for drugs

TUESDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Reports on medication research published in general news media often fail to disclose that the research received pharmaceutical company funding and frequently refer to drugs by brand name rather than using the generic name, according to an article published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Michael Hochman, M.D., of Cambridge Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues conducted a survey of studies published in prominent medical journals that were covered in online media and newspapers. The authors also surveyed editors of the 100 newspapers with the widest U.S. circulation.

Out of 306 news articles, company funding of the research was not mentioned in 130 (42 percent), and of the 277 articles on medications with generic and brand names, the article used brand names in at least half of the drug references in 186 (67 percent) of the articles, the researchers found. News editors overstated the extent to which their publications referred to company funding of medication research and used generic drug names, the report reveals. Only three out of 92 newspapers had a written policy on reporting funding sources and two out of 93 had a written policy on use of generic names, the authors note.

"For patients and physicians to evaluate new research findings, it is important that they know how the research was funded so they can assess whether commercial biases may have affected the results," the authors write.

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