The idea of “fake news” has pervaded the way in which we view world news. As a result, the veracity of any claim can easily be called into question. In a survey of brands and companies, 42% of Americans believe they are not as truthful as they were 20 years ago. The idea of false information is not new, but the reaction it
elicits is stronger than ever seen before.
Clinical trials can fall prey to the traps of being labeled “fake” in their attempts to reach potential subjects and in their desire to hold on to existing ones by making claims they may not be able to fully support. Information about practically any disorder can be found online, from both reputable sources and ones that weave
fact into fiction, often for the purpose of persuading a vulnerable population into a belief tied to a purchase. A 2013 op-ed in the New York Times went as far as asking the question, “Do Clinical Trials Work?”. The fact that the question itself needs to be asked shows the level of distrust with which clinical research is viewed. Where is all this negative information coming from?
Error and fraud are two main reasons fake news is beginning to permeate into publicly-available information about any given therapeutic area. For example, a review of over 2,000 biomedical research articles on Pub-Med, retracted as of May 3, 2012, showed that approximately 21% were retracted due to errors but 67%
were retracted due to misconduct, including fraud. The ISCHEMIA trial, conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and currently ongoing, has recently been challenged for changing the study’s endpoints before reporting the results from myocardial infarction and cardiovascular death to less negative sounding outcomes like hospitalization or angina, including changing the endpoints 99% of the way into enrollment on clincaltrials.gov.
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