A recent article published last week in the journal Trials sought to enumerate what percentage of randomized controlled clinical drug studies were performed for scientific purposes vs. marketing purposes. They found that 1 in 5 were performed for marketing purposes. The authors of the study state, “We reached consensus that a fifth of drug trials published in the highest impact general medical journals in 2011 had features that were suggestive of being designed for marketing purposes.”
These marketing-driven trials, called “seeding trials,” may help the manufacturer of a drug sell more of that drug by convincing doctors to prescribe them more often. This might seem unsettling, but regardless of whether a study is for scientific or marketing purposes, they tend to be carefully performed.
There appears to be no way of knowing exactly which studies are marketing related when digesting them. However, generally speaking they tend to use language which can encourage the use of the medication outside of the studied group, again allowing for increased sales.
In my personal opinion, we must realize we live in a capitalistic country and marketing-driven studies are bound to occur. If we put our energy into ensuring that studies must be performed strictly and correctly, and are then peer reviewed, the science should stay sound. However, we should keep in mind when reading medical studies that inherent marketing bias may be the impetus for the study.