Friday, June 2, 2023

Funders crack down on unpublished clinical trials—but is it enough?

  1. Barbara Casassus, freelance journalist
  1. Paris
  1. barbara.casassus{at}

Failure to report clinical trial results is a longstanding problem in medical research, but funders are starting to take action against laggard investigators, new research finds. Barbara Casassus reports

The consequences of failing to report clinical trial results are huge: patients are deprived of lifesaving drugs, vaccines, and medical devices; flawed or harmful remedies ensue; and colossal sums of taxpayers’ and donors’ money are wasted. Yet just five years ago the World Health Organization estimated that some 50% of clinical trials went unreported, “often because the results are negative.”1

“The costs of monitoring compliance are negligible, while the potential benefits are vast, especially in speeding up the translation of new discoveries into clinical practice,” says Till Bruckner, founder of TranspariMED, the advocacy group that steered research published this week.2 The new figures show that several of 39 leading corporate, academic, and other funders from around the world have tightened up on discipline, some significantly over the past year. But compliance remains hugely uneven, internationally and within countries.

Uneven compliance

In 2017 WHO issued a joint statement giving several recommendations (box 1) for the public disclosure of clinical trial results,1 formally endorsing them in 2022. Signatories included the national funding bodies of Canada, India, and the UK and some of the world’s largest research foundations and non-governmental organisations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK’s Wellcome Trust, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Box 1

WHO’s 11 best practices on disclosing clinical trial results

Trial registries

  1. Prospective trial registration

  2. Registry records kept up to date

  3. Results posted onto registry, ideally within 12 months

  4. Protocol posted onto registry, ideally within 12 months

Journal publication

  1. Results made public in journal

  2. Trial ID included in all publications

  3. Open access publication

Monitoring compliance

  1. Funder …


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