Open to all
This week has seen a significant step taken on the road to fuller transparency on drug trials. I congratulate AllTrials.net, the Medical Research Council, British Medical Journal and, of course, The Times in highlighting this vital issue.
GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) decision to expand on their commitment to publish both negative and positive drug trial data is truly praiseworthy. This is a substantial undertaking, given that all patients’ data will have to anonymised, but it is without question the right direction of travel. Let us hope that more companies follow their example.
As I have outlined on previous occasions, when addressing a problem it is just as important to have a full understanding of what doesn’t work as it is to have an understanding of what does. Opening up clinical trial data will significantly benefit the scientific community as it will stop drug developers from walking down an already trodden path (as in not retesting a drug that has already been tested). This openness of data is by no means an end in itself; it will not create a new drug. However it should speed up the process of development immensely.
What should also be noted is how this decision has come about. It wasn’t through a court case, it wasn’t through scandal and it wasn’t even market driven. It has come about through the pressure exerted through a campaign with modest roots. Ben Goldacre and other initiates have demonstrated that “big pharma” are not the immovable force as often characterised.
It has never been clearer to me that we must maintain the pressure and keep this issue on the agenda of policy makers and industry leaders.