Pharmaceutical companies are providing more required information about clinical trials on a federal Web site but are withholding the names of drugs being tested and the main outcomes being measured in some cases, according to a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the AP/Boston Globe reports (Marchione, AP/Boston Globe, 12/28/05). The Web site -- Clinicaltrials.gov -- was created in 2002. It is a public registry of clinical trials of drugs and devices for treating serious illnesses and includes trials on both experimental treatments and treatments already approved for other uses. Editors of the world's leading medical journals in 2004 said they would no longer publish the results of studies not listed on the Web site or on a similar public space. Researchers had until Sept. 13, 2005, to register trials in order to have their work published in major journals, and from May to October 2005 the number of registered trials increased 73% to 22,714 (Sataline, Wall Street Journal, 12/29/05). The study in NEJM -- headed by Deborah Zarin of NIH's National Library of Medicine, which runs the registry -- primarily examined whether listings revealed the name of the drug and the main outcomes being measured (AP/Boston Globe, 12/28/05). The study found that the "vast majority" of companies provided the information, but four -- Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly -- have withheld the names of some drugs.Come on, people. The rules surrounding this registry should mandate drug name disclosure. It's extremely unhelpful to disclose negative/poor trial results, but not be able to glean further information on the efficacy of the drug.
It's just one more example of the choke hold pharma retains on our representatives. But this isn't oil or bridges to remote Alaskan islands -- we're talking pills. That go in millions of patient's bodies. We really require this research. With more confusion on antidepressants to the repititon of clinical trials, the current research system is a labyrinth.
This kind of behavior is inexcusable. What's the point of a drug registry if we let companies hide their results?