Individuals struggling with a mental disorder often benefit from a combination of treatment strategies. This may result in a prescription for medication, in addition to sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy to address the cues that lead to mental disorder symptoms.
However, a recent study finds that the benefits of using a medication may be exaggerated in research, due to a bias stemming from industry backing of studies. The studies lean heavily towards the documentation of medication treatments, with cognitive behavioral therapy research receiving far less funding.
The studies, funded largely by the industry, may provide an inaccurate picture of the treatment desired and necessary to treat disorders like depression. The studies are often introduced to psychiatrists at an annual meeting and are often focused on promoting the benefits of new treatments involving medications.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and Yale University and was presented at a conference of the American Psychiatric Association. In addition, the results are published in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.
The researchers examined the 278 studies presented during APA annual meetings in the years 2009 and 2010. The studies all compared a minimum of two medications, and 195 were funded by the industry, with 83 funded in other ways. The researchers evaluated the research without a disclosure of support.
Among the studies supported by the industry, 97.4 percent showed results that were in favor of the medicine the study was initiated to evaluate. An additional 2.6 percent presented mixed results. There were no studies sponsored by the industry that showed negative results for the medication tested.
In studies not funded by the industry, 68.7 percent of the findings were positive, in addition to 24.1 percent presenting mixed results. Another 7.2 percent showed negative results.
The researchers say that the "presentation bias" is akin to the "publication bias" that has been discussed in several leading journals, says Srijan Sen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study.
The study was initiated with Sen, who noticed at the annual conference of the APA, with 16,000 members, that the industry presence is significant in research. The presentation of research often involves products that are still "on patent" and are being marketed to the psychiatrists present at the meeting.
This awareness by Sen led to a formal study, in which he was joined by Maya Prabhu, M.D., M.Sc., a psychiatrist at Yale.
Sen explains that the results suggest that the annual meeting of the APA might be utilized by the industry as an opportunity to present drugs as more valuable to therapy than they truly are. Meanwhile, "talk therapy" receives far less discussion, likely due to a lack of industry funding.
The results are important because the bias may be significantly impacting clinical practice. The APA qualifies as a significant opportunity for continuing education credit for psychiatrists and for those just entering the field.