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BMC Med Res Methodol. 2009 Apr 8;9:23. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-9-23.

Does direction of results of abstracts submitted to scientific conferences on drug addiction predict full publication?

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Italian National Health Service, Local Health Unit Rome E, Via di S, Costanza, 53, 00198 Rome, Italy. vecchi@asplazio.it



Data from scientific literature show that about 63% of abstracts presented at biomedical conferences will be published in full. Some studies have indicated that full publication is associated with the direction of results (publication bias). No study has looked into the occurrence of publication bias in the field of addiction.


To investigate whether the significance or direction of results of abstracts presented at the major international scientific conference on addiction is associated with full publication


The conference proceedings of the US Annual Meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), were handsearched for abstracts of randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials that evaluated interventions for prevention, rehabilitation and treatment of drug addiction in humans (years searched 1993-2002). Data regarding the study designs and outcomes reported were extracted. Subsequent publication in peer reviewed journals was searched in MEDLINE and EMBASE databases, as of March 2006.


Out of 5919 abstracts presented, 581 met the inclusion criteria; 359 (62%) conference abstracts had been published in a broad variety of peer reviewed journals (average time of publication 2.6 years, SD +/- 1.78). The proportion of published studies was almost the same for randomized controlled trials (62.4%) and controlled clinical trials (59.5%) while studies that reported positive results were significantly more likely to be published (74.5%) than those that did not report statistical results (60.9%.), negative or null results (47.1%) and no results (38.6%), Abstracts reporting positive results had a significantly higher probability of being published in full, while abstracts reporting null or negative results were half as likely to be published compared with positive ones (HR = 0.48; 95%CI 0.30-0.74)


Clinical trials were the minority of abstracts presented at the CPDD; we found evidence of possible publication bias in the field of addiction, with negative or null results having half the likelihood of being published than positive ones.

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