Evaluation of clinical trial registration, reporting and publication rates for new drugs

How pharma keeps a trove of drug trials out of public view

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A third of the clinical trial results that federal regulators reviewed to approve drugs made by large pharmaceutical companies in 2012 were never publicly reported, according to a new study that grades companies on their transparency. clinical trial capsules by Esther Dyson.

2015 Study Abstract

To evaluate clinical trial registration, reporting and publication rates for new drugs by:

  1. legal requirements and
  2. the ethical standard that all human subjects research should be publicly accessible to contribute to generalisable knowledge.

Cross-sectional analysis of all clinical trials submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for drugs approved in 2012, sponsored by large biopharmaceutical companies.

Data sources
Information from Drugs@FDA, ClinicalTrials.gov, MEDLINE-indexed journals and drug company communications.

Main outcome measures
Clinical trial registration and results reporting in ClinicalTrials.gov, publication in the medical literature, and compliance with the 2007 FDA Amendments Acts (FDAAA), analysed on the drug level.

The FDA approved 15 drugs sponsored by 10 large companies in 2012. We identified 318 relevant trials involving 99 599 research participants. Per drug, a median of 57% (IQR 32–83%) of trials were registered, 20% (IQR 12–28%) reported results in ClinicalTrials.gov, 56% (IQR 41–83%) were published, and 65% (IQR 41–83%) were either published or reported results. Almost half of all reviewed drugs had at least one undisclosed phase II or III trial. Per drug, a median of 17% (IQR 8–20%) of trials supporting FDA approvals were subject to FDAAA mandated public disclosure; of these, a median of 67% (IQR 0–100%) were FDAAA-compliant. 68% of research participants (67 629 of 99 599) participated in FDAAA-subject trials, with 51% (33 405 of 67 629) enrolled in non-compliant trials. Transparency varied widely among companies.

Trial disclosures for new drugs remain below legal and ethics standards, with wide variation in practices among drugs and their sponsors. Best practices are emerging. 2 of our 10 reviewed companies disclosed all trials and complied with legal disclosure requirements for their 2012 approved drugs. Ranking new drugs on transparency criteria may improve compliance with legal and ethics standards and the quality of medical knowledge.

Sources and more information

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