NEJM articles fuel debate over sponsored research

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Conflicting articles within the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) have once again spawned debate over the validity of drug-company sponsored research appearing in medical journals.
The latest argument stems from a study published today concerning Cephalon's Provigil.
The Cephalon-funded study found that Provigil, designed to help nighttime workers stay awake, succeeded in improving worker's alertness and performance. But an editorial in the same publication states the data suggest Provigil use is "little better than nothing."
Adding fuel to the debate was a story in today's Wall Street Journal explaining that the professorship of the study's lead author, Harvard Medical School sleep medicine division chief Charles Czeisler, is endowed by Cephalon for $2 million.
A Cephalon spokeswoman defended the use of company-paid researchers and the study's results in the newspaper report. "They can't do the research without money and we can't do the research without patients," Cephalon spokeswoman Sheryl Williams said.
NEJM's editorial said the study showed only slight improvements in workers wakefulness and productivity, and seemed to exacerbate some patients' bouts of insomnia.
"That's not a very robust endorsement of the drug coming from the investigators themselves," the editorial's author Columbia University pulmonologist Robert Basner wrote. "This drug is little better than nothing in terms of making themselves less sleepy during shift work at night."
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