It's all about the content

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It's now official: docs care more about the quality of the data than who the commercial supporter is. From a press release:

    In a study of the reading habits of physicians, the most important factors affecting the interpretation of medical literature are the "Quality of Information Presented," and "How Well Key Concepts are Supported by Data." The least important factor of those studied was whether or not the research had "Commercial Sponsorship." The University of Alabama School of Medicine at Birmingham performed the study in conjunction with Astrolabe Analytica, Inc.

The study, which began in January, was designed to analyze the reading habits of 300 doctors across the country. Entitled, "Physician Appraisal of the Published Literature: Assessment of Clinical Relevance and Identification of Key Messages," the study looked at the perceived strengths of messages conveyed in the medical literature, and to what extent the main concepts described in medical articles can influence a doctor's approach to treating patients. The doctors participating in the study were asked to respond to questions after reading one of two articles that have been published on the treatment of osteoporosis. The study participants included a mix of family practitioners, internists, and other specialists. They currently work in private practice, teach, or are HMO participating physicians.

According to Lawrence Liberti, executive vice president of Astrolabe Analytica, Inc., "Doctors, who on average spend more than four hours a week reading medical literature, take into consideration a number of factors when they read journals. They look for well-written articles that contain good science and data to back-up the conclusions the article draws. They also look at where the article has been published. The credibility of the journal carrying the material is extremely important."

The study pointed out that: 1. Physicians could discriminate between a well-written article with good science and a weaker article; 2. A stronger article had a statistically significant greater impact on the physician's approach to the management of a target disease; 3. The least important factor rated was sponsorship by a commercial entity.

"This is important to the pharmaceutical and medical device companies that sponsor a good deal of research each year," added Liberti. "Doctors are more interested in good science with strong supporting data than they are in whether or not the research was commercially funded."

Factors Influencing Interpretation of Medical Literature by Practicing Physicians (in rank order): 1. Quality of Information Presented 2. How Well Key Concepts are Supported by Data 3. Quality of the Journal 4. Format of Presentation 5. Reputation of Sponsor 6. Reputation of Investigators 7. Commercial Sponsorship

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