Spin in RCTs of anxiety medication with a positive primary outcome: A comparison of concerns expressed by the US FDA and in the published literature

Beijers, L., Jeronimus, B. F., Turner, E. H., de Jonge, P. & Roest, A. M., 1-Mar-2017, In : BMJ Open. 7, 3, 6 p., e012886.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Objectives: This study aimed to determine the presence of spin in papers on positive randomised clinical trials (RCTs) of antidepressant medication for anxiety disorders by comparing concerns expressed in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews with those expressed in the published paper.

Methods: For every positive anxiety medication trial with a matching publication (n= 41), two independent reviewers identified the concerns raised in the US FDA reviews and those in the published literature. Spin was identified when concerns or limitations were expressed by the FDA (about the efficacy of the study drug) but not in the corresponding published paper. Concerns mentioned in the papers but not by the FDA were scored as `non- FDA' concerns.

Findings: Only six out of 35 (17%) of the FDA concerns pertaining to drug efficacy were reported in the papers. Two papers mentioned a concern that fit the FDA categories, but was not mentioned in the corresponding FDA review. Eighty- seven non- FDA concerns were counted, which often reflected general concerns or concerns related to the study design.

Conclusions: Results indicate the presence of substantial spin in the clinical trial literature on drugs for anxiety disorders. In papers describing RCTs on anxiety medication, the concerns raised by the authors differed from those raised by the FDA. Published papers mentioned a large number of generic concerns about RCTs, such as a lack of long- term research and limited generalisability, while they mentioned few concerns about drug efficacy. These results warrant the promotion of independent statistical review, reporting of patient- level data, more study of spin, and an increased expectation that authors report FDA concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere012886
Number of pages6
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1-Mar-2017



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