An awful lot, if you believe the work of Matthew Stanbrook and colleagues. They recently published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine (2006; 355:1;101-102) in a letter titled “Acronym-Named Randomized Trials in Medicine – The ART in Medicine Study,” in which they analyzed randomized trials published between 1953 and 2003. Of the 173 trials identified, about a third (34%) were named with acronyms, but these 59 studies were cited more than twice as frequently as the others (13.8 vs. 5.7 per year). The authors note that “exemplary investigators may generate both clever acronyms and important research” – indeed, acronym-named studies were larger and had higher methodologic quality scores – but they also point out that those studies were four times as likely to be funded by the pharmaceutical industry and eight times as likely to be authored by an industry employee. Acronyms may be a harmless mnemonic tool, but they can also carry subliminal advertising power, exemplified by the title from another article on acronym-named research: “CAPTURE! SHOCK! EXCITE! Clinical trial acronyms and the “branding” of clinical research” (Ann Int Med 2000;133:755-759). Each of these acronyms was actually used to name clinical trials. Marketing – it’s everywhere.