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Mental health
Evaluation of spin in abstracts of papers in psychiatry and psychology journals
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  • Published on:
    An epidemic of spin in psychiatry

    Psychiatry is, to an extent, a looking glass world, in which the evidence base can be shrunk, expanded, or, the same as Alice, made to descend down a deep, deep hole.

    Joanna Moncrieff for anti- psychotics (1), and Irving Kirsch for anti- depressants, have been suspicious that the drugs concerned may often be not much better than placebo- or that the complexity of the drugs makes comparison with placebo problematic. (Moncrieff cites the impossibility of true double blinding because side effects are, unfortunately, so evident for patients and clinicians alike).

    The problem is money. Big Pharma tends to be avaricious, and how soon greed may make one disregard that silly obstacle known as truth!

    Spin can be the case even if there appears to be statistical significance. A large sample size- as in meta-analysis- will conclude a tiny difference, of no medical worth, is statistically significant. 'Overpowering' is spin too.

    Big Pharma, roaming around its own psychopharmacological 'wonderland', is ensuring, in the most bizarre and baffling ways possible, that everything is 'curiouser and curiouser'.

    References:

    (1) The Bitterest Pills. The Troubling Story of Anti-Psychotics. Joanna Moncrieff. Palgrave Macmillan. 2013.

    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Research Integrity & BJPsych
    • Professor Kamaldeep Bhui CBE, Editor-in-Chief, British Journal of Psychiatry & Head of Centre for Psychiatry Queen Mary University of London
    • Other Contributors:
      • Alice J Shuttleworth, Managing Editor

    Dear Editor,

    We welcome the publication of the Jellinson study (9) which is consistent with the focus on research integrity lead by the BJPsych editorial team (please see our most recent retraction (1) and associated editorial (2)).

    The issue of ‘spin’ is a widespread problem across the whole research community and is not unique to psychiatry as recognised by the authors of this study (3, 4, 5). We note that according to the protocol the authors are carrying out and publishing similar studies in the fields of cardiology, otolaryngology (6), orthopaedic surgery, obesity medicine (7), anaesthesiology (8) and emergency medicine.

    It is unclear from the article or protocol why this subset of journals was chosen for evaluation. We would be interested to know why the number of journals was limited to 6 and what were the parameters for a journal to be considered ‘influential’. It is also interesting to note that none of the journals chosen exclusively publish psychology research (2 publish psychiatry and psychology research and the remaining 4 journals solely publish psychiatric research). Do the authors infer that the problem is more prevalent in influential psychiatry journals? The authors also acknowledge that identifying spin is subjective, highlighting the difficulties faced by journal editors and reviewers who are also trying to identify instances of spin.

    Since December 2017 (the end of data extraction in the study), the BJPsych has proactively t...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    Professor Kamaldeep Bhui is the Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
    Alice Shuttleworth is the Managing Editor of the British Journal of Psychiatry.