Survey: Docs less likely to prescribe drugs supported by pharma-funded trials

Back in 2009, before Merck ($MRK) CEO Richard Clark retired, he warned the industry that it had a "trust deficit" that needed to be fixed, or sales would suffer. Now, after scads more marketing settlements, liability lawsuits, retracted journal articles, and safety scandals, a new survey finds the pharma trust deficit still lingers--and among its most important audience: doctors.

Researchers wrote fake drug-study abstracts, varying funding sources and pharma sponsorships, as well as the quality of the study data. The 269 doctors surveyed could identify the better-quality studies, and said they'd be less likely to prescribe the drugs supported by lower-quality data.

But the doctors were suspicious of studies supported by drugmakers. They discounted the higher-quality studies when those studies came with pharma sponsorship. And they were half as willing to prescribe a drug when the trial was sponsored by industry, compared with government-funded trials, Reuters reports.

"There was this lack of credibility of industry-funded trials," Harvard Medical School's Aaron Kesselheim told the news service. "I think skepticism is appropriate, but at some point the methods of the research should provide reassurance."

The survey follows a series of moves by pharma companies, on the one hand, and governments on the other, to make financial relationships among doctors, academic researchers, and drugmakers more transparent. Thanks to ongoing criticism, free meals, junkets and even token gifts are less common than in the past--and doctors have ratcheted down their interactions with drug-company sales reps.

- read the Reuters news