Bear this in mind the next time a drug company touts a serious study proclaiming the wonders of its product: A former employee of a "major" pharmaceutical company has written an essay in the British Medical Journal warning that the industry's scientific-sounding studies are sometimes rigged. “We occasionally resorted to ‘playing’ with the data that had originally failed to show the expected result,” he writes in the subscription-only essay. “This was done by altering the statistical method until any statistical significance was found.”
As Nature explains, the writer is referring to studies that get done after FDA approval, "research" that is subject to far less scrutiny. The companies pay doctors to enroll patients in studies, then massage the results until they're tailor-made for a commercial. The studies are "not designed to determine the overall risk:benefit balance of the drug in the general population," writes the anonymous whistle-blower. "They were designed to support and disseminate a marketing message."