Freedom to Read Week- February 23-29

Freedom to Read KitThis week is Freedom to Read Week, an annual event that encourages Canadians to reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unity Health Toronto Library Services invite you to participate in defending your right to access information. In medical research selective reporting practices can result in information being censored, or misleading. By learning more you can increase your awareness of selective reporting practices, and identify resources that can be used to find unpublished trial results. 


In biomedical literature, reporting practices that distort the interpretation of results to present results in more a more favorable light are referred to as “spin”. Spin refers to a biased presentation of data, such as an over extrapolation or selective interpretation of results, or the use of unwarranted casual language.  Due to the incentive to publish positive results, spin is especially prevalent in clinical trials. Therefore, spin can negatively impact further research, health practice, and policy.  Users of biomedical literature should be aware of the prevalence and manifestations of spin within their area of research in order to ensure accurate interpretation of results and avoid misinformation.  


Selective reporting practices are also prevalent in drug trials. “Drug repositionings” are methods that drug companies use in a trial to repurpose and remarket previously approved drugs. Repositioning is used to position a drug for a specific outcome within a trial, to obtain expedited approval or reduced cost. Selective reporting methods, such as a single over extrapolated example and omission of other data, are used in order to position drugs favorably. Negative or unfavorable results from drug trials often remain unpublished. This results in incomplete and misleading published information about a drug. In response to this, AS Brown and CJ Patel created the  RepoDB Drug Repositioning Database, a publicly available database containing comprehensive results from drug trials, including negative or failed drugs. You can use this database to find complete information about trials of a specific drug.


Works Cited

Chiu, K. Grundy Q. Bero, L. ‘Spin’ in published  biomedical literature: A methodological systematic review. PLoS Biology 15(9) (2017).


Brown, AS. Patel, CJ. A standard database for drug repositioning. Scientific Data; 4 (170029) (2017).


Further Reading

Korevaar, DA. Salameh, J‐P. Vali, Y, et al. Searching practices and inclusion of unpublished studies in systematic reviews of diagnostic accuracy. Res Syn Meth 2020; 1– 11 (2020).


Ioannidis, John PA, Caplan, Arthur L, et al. Outcome reporting bias in clinical trials: why monitoring matters. BMJ 2017; 356 (j408) (2017).  



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