Seeing double with Eli Lilly’s antidepressant

The Clinical Psych Blog has caught Eli Lilly publishing identical data on its new antidepressant drug in two separate scientific papers. This is a dubious practice often carried out to make a drug seem to have more supporting evidence than than has actually been collected.

The study, originally published in the Jan 2008 edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry tested the new antidepressant duloxetine (trade name ‘Cymbalta’) and looked at symptoms of both depression and physical pain.

Eli Lilly have been trying to promote duloxetine as a drug that helps with physical pain for a while, despite the fact that a meta-analysis published earlier this year found that there was no evidence for its pain killing properties.

This new study looks at whether the drug helps physical pain when patients are switched from traditional SSRI medication. It finds that it does help physical pain, but doesn’t include a control group, so really doesn’t tell us anything specific about the drug. Maybe people were just getting better anyway. We can’t tell.

However, a study about to appear in the Journal of Psychiatry Research uses exactly the same data set. In fact, the only thing that’s different is there’s a couple of minor additional subscale results.

Publishing different articles on the same data is not necessarily foul play, but protocol says you do two things. The first is to say it’s the same data that’s been published before so everyone knows where they stand, and the second is you report a new and scientifically interesting analysis.

This new article does neither, contrary to the rules of the scientific journal Eli Lilly have published in, but also contrary to the general spirit of honesty and fair play that allows doctors to reasonably assess the evidence upon which they base their treatment decisions.

Clinical Psych Blog notes a few more suspicious things about the articles (new authors mysteriously appear, for example) and looks at the study in more depth if you want the full scientific details.

Also good if just want to see a major pharmaceutical company get caught with their pants down.

Link to Clinical Psych Blog on dodgy duplicate publication.

1 thought on “Seeing double with Eli Lilly’s antidepressant”

  1. I don’t understand the controversy because it is doing for me what it was prescribed for: both! My feeling is that pharmaceutical science is getting funnier.

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