A recent article published in The Economist highlights the fact that more than half of all the clinical trials are never published.
In any situation, if we only know half of the truth, distorsions ocurr and could lead to inappropriate and harmful decisions. A US law was passed in 2007 to encourage pharmaceutical companies to register them on a website and give follow-up on the results.
But this is not always precisely executed. After the legal maximum of a year was up, the percentage of clinical trials which had had their results published:
– 17% of those paid for by industry;
– 8% of those sponsored by the National Institutes of Health;
– 6% of those paid for by other government agencies/academic institutions.
The quantity of missing trials is huge and hiding poor results is not what we expect from scientists.
It has to change as hidden or missing data could lead to the use of inappropriate drugs in some patients. There is hope: the website Alltrials (launched by Ben Goldacre) and the charity behind this initiative are leading the movement toward more transparency. The charity “Sense About Science is working on an index, to be published later this year, that will rate pharma firms according to the extent of their commitment to publish all trials”.