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More medical trials than ever are beholden to the drug industry

More medical trials than ever are beholden to the drug industry

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Clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health have fallen every year since 2006, while studies funded by the drug industry have risen significantly in that time. Reuters, reporting on a study that appears this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association, says that NIH-funded studies fell from 1,376 in 2006 to 1,048 in 2014, while pharmaceutical industry trials rose from 4,585 to 6,550 during that same period.

The swing may be concerning for the medical community, as drug industry trials are — naturally — focused on supporting each company's own products, whereas NIH-funded trials may compare drugs or even test treatments that focus on lifestyle changes, Reuters reports. "Given that the industry has a vested interest in the outcome of those trials then we don’t get good data to inform health of the public," study co-author Stephan Ehrhardt, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells Reuters.

Part of the growing imbalance may be a dip in funding for the NIH. Reuters reports that its budget fell 14 percent between 2006 and 2014. Fortunately, it looks like the agency is in for a significant boost next year. The Hill reports that the new government funding bill would increase the NIH's research budget by $2 billion.