Quality of reporting (QR) in industry-funded research is a concern of the scientific community. Greater scrutiny of industry-sponsored research reporting has been suggested, although differences in QR by sponsorship type have not been evaluated in weight loss interventions.
To evaluate the association of funding source and QR of long-term obesity randomized clinical trials.
We analyzed papers that reported long-term weight loss trials. Articles were obtained through searches of MEDLINE, HealthStar, and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register between the years 1966–2003. QR scores were determined for each study based upon expanded criteria from the Consolidated Standards for Reporting Trials (CONSORT) checklist for a maximum score of 44 points. Studies were coded by category of industry support (0=no industry support, 1= industry support, 2= in kind contribution from industry and 3=duality of interest reported). Individual CONSORT reporting criteria were tabulated by funding type. An independent samples t-test compared differences in QR scores by funding source and the Wilcox-Mann-Whitney test and generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used for sensitivity analyses.
Of the 63 RCTs evaluated, 67% were industry-supported trials. Industry funding was associated with higher QR score in long-term weight loss trials compared to non-industry funded studies (Mean QR (SD): Industry = 27.9 (4.1), Non-Industry =23.4 (4.1); p < 0.0005). The Wilcox-Mann-Whitney test confirmed this result (p<0.0005). Controlling for the year of publication and whether paper was published before the CONSORT statement was released in a GEE regression analysis, the direction and magnitude of effect was similar and statistically significant (p=0.035). Of the individual criteria that prior research has associated with biases, industry funding was associated with greater reporting of intent-to-treat analysis (p=0.0158), but was not different from non-industry studies in reporting of treatment allocation and blinding.
Our findings suggest that efforts to improve reporting quality be directed at all obesity RCTs irrespective of funding source.
Keywords: Randomized clinical trials, obesity, CONSORT, reporting quality, weight loss, industry funding