Background: Controversy exists regarding the safety of electrical stun guns (TASERs). Much of the research on TASERs is funded by the maker of the device and, therefore, could be biased. We sought to determine if funding source or author affiliation is associated with TASER research conclusions.
Methods: MEDLINE was searched for TASER or electrical stun gun to identify relevant studies. All human and animal studies published up to September 01, 2010, were included. Reviews, editorials, letters, and case reports were excluded from the analysis. Two independent reviewers blinded to this study hypothesis evaluated each article with regard to conclusions of TASER safety.
Results: Fifty studies were reviewed: 32 (64%) were human studies and 18 (36%) were animal studies. Twenty-three (46%) studies were funded by TASER International or written by an author affiliated with the company. Of these, 22 (96%) concluded that TASERs are unlikely harmful (26%) or not harmful (70%). In contrast, of the 22 studies not affiliated with TASER, 15 (55%) concluded that TASERs are unlikely harmful (29%) or not harmful (26%). A study with any affiliation with TASER International had nearly 18 times higher odds to conclude that the TASER is likely safe as compared with studies without such affiliation (odds ratio 17.6, 95% CI 2.1-150.1, P = .001).
Conclusions: Studies funded by TASER and/or written by an author affiliated with the company are substantially more likely to conclude that TASERs are safe. Research supported by TASER International may thus be significantly biased in favor of TASER safety.
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