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The paroxetine 352 bipolar trial: A study in medical ghostwriting.

Author(s): Amsterdam JD, McHenry LB.

Affiliation(s): Depression Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA. enopath@aol.com

Publication date & source: 2012, Int J Risk Saf Med. , 24(4):221-31

BACKGROUND: The problem of ghostwriting in corporate-sponsored clinical trials is of concern to medicine, bioethics, and government agencies. We present a study of the ghostwritten archival report of an industry-sponsored trial comparing antidepressant treatments for bipolar depression: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) paroxetine study 352. This analysis is based upon publicly available evidence presented in a complaint of research misconduct filed with the Office of Research Integrity of the Department of Health and Human Services. OBJECTIVES: We performed a deconstruction of the published study to show how primary and secondary outcome analyses were conflated, turning a 'negative' clinical trial into a 'positive' study - with conclusions and recommendations that could adversely affect patient health. METHODS: The paroxetine 352 study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 19-site trial comparing paroxetine and imipramine in 117 patients with bipolar type I major depressive episode which was unresponsive to prior lithium carbonate therapy. RESULTS: Analysis of the primary outcome measures found no statistically significant difference between paroxetine or imipramine versus placebo. However, the published article concluded that both drugs were efficacious versus placebo for a post hoc subgroup of patients. CONCLUSIONS: Few industry-sponsored studies gain public scrutiny. It is important to make these articles transparent to the scientific and medical community.

Page last updated: 2013-02-10

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