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Decline of Independent Trials

As the number of clinical trials funded by the US National Institutes of Health has fallen, trials funded by industry have increased, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers.

Stephan Ehrhardt, Lawrence Appel, and Curtis Meinert sifted through data from to find that the number of newly registered clinical trials doubled between 2006 and 2014, as they report today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In this same timeframe, they note that the number of industry-funded trials increased by 1,965, or by 43 percent, while the number of NIH-funded trials decreased by 328, or 24 percent.

In a statement, Ehrhardt says he's concerned about the decline of independent trials and the increased amount of data that may be influenced by commercial interest. "When I am doing a government-funded trial comparing two treatments, I start with the assumption that both treatments are equal. I don't have a vested financial interest in the outcome," he adds.

The decline in NIH-funded studies is likely due to the agency's flat budget and increased competition for those limited dollars, the researchers say.

Ehrhardt further argues that discussions into how to best allocate research funds are needed.