Cardiologists recently hailed early results of a study suggesting that many lives might be saved if people with high blood pressure got it down far below levels now recommended. They predicted swift changes in treatment practices. Patients rushed to call their doctors.
But the intense interest in this big, rigorous clinical trial masked a startling truth about heart research: Many studies are never published at all, their findings consigned to oblivion.
It is an issue that is arising in other parts of medicine as well, but heart disease is one area where it has been especially well documented. Hundreds of millions of dollars has been going to heart studies that are too small and narrow to yield results meaningful enough to get into a journal. In an era of ever-tightening budgets, federal health officials acknowledge that money has been squandered on work that makes no difference to patients or even to research scientists.
Now, a few…