Aug. 28, 2023  – Critics sometimes argue that study quality is the main factor in publication—that it just so happens that all the favorable studies conducted by pharma are of good quality, while all the unfavorable studies by independent researchers are of poor quality.

However, the researchers found that study quality did not explain the selective publication they identified. Instead, it appears that top psychiatric journals tend to publish researchers who are funded by pharma, and thus find favorable results, whether the study is of good quality or not—and good quality studies by independent researchers, who are more likely to find unfavorable results, end up in the bin.

The researchers warn that this creates a false image of the safety and efficacy of antidepressant drugs. If industry-funded studies, which find favorable results for antidepressants, are published in the top psychiatric journals, while studies of the same quality that are independent but find unfavorable outcomes are shunted into non-psychiatric and low-ranking journals, then the evidence base in the top journals of the specialty is biased and misleading.

Positive studies in top journals in the specialty are more likely to receive media coverage and be taken seriously by journalists, academics, and psychiatrists themselves. Thus, beginning with a biased set of studies creates an exponentially expanding bubble of misleading information.