[4 min read] Spin strategies used in reporting of dermatologic literature

In scientific literature, what spin strategies do authors use to improve or skew the interpretation of their findings? Spin – reporting that distorts the interpretation of results – is not unusual within scientific literature. A study appraised the spin strategies employed in dermatologic literature – specifically among a collection of placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trials of topical treatments for photoaged skin.

A systematic review of literature was performed to identify placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trials of topical treatments for photoaged skin. A survey of spin strategies was developed and applied to the cohort of identified studies. The results were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The systematic review led to the identification of 20 studies in which various types of spin strategies (broadly classified as either inappropriate statistical analyses or inappropriate interpretation of results) were used.

The most commonly used strategies included use of multiple primary outcomes (95%), inappropriate extrapolation of results from specific outcomes to global improvements (95%), focus on within-group comparisons (75%), and focus on interim analyses to give more weight to non-significant findings (65%).

These findings inform efforts to reduce spin in the dermatologic literature. Doctors and dermatologists should understand potential spin strategies when reading any trial, especially those to do with treatments for photoageing. Editors and peer reviewers also need to be aware of these findings.

Read more recent research.

Source: Analysis of spin in the reporting of studies of topical treatments of photoaged skin. Motosko, Catherine C. et al. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 80, Issue 2, 516 – 522.e12

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