Op-Ed: Can 'Big Pharma' move towards greater transparency?

Posted Aug 3, 2013 by Tim Sandle
In a move described as 'transparent', the major drugs companies have agreed to share data from clinical trials with researchers, patients, and the public.
Laboratoty technician microbiological analysis
Laboratoty technician microbiological analysis
For several years, groups of doctors and scientists who want access to the pharmaceutical’s enormous pile of clinical research data. One notable campaign has been led by Ben Goldacre, a medical doctor who wrote a critical and illuminating account of the secret world of 'big pharma' called "Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients" (the book is highly recommended).
In response to lobbying, three Big Pharma coalitions have agreed to significantly increase the amount of research data they will make openly available. European and North American trade organizations, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) all said that pharmaceutical companies in Europe and the United States will follow rules requiring them to make available upon request patient- and study-level clinical trial data, full clinical study reports, and protocols from clinical trials held in the U.S. and Europe. The companies have also committed to providing patients of clinical trials with accurate trial summary results, as well as publishing the results of all trials, regardless of the outcome.
PhRMA president and CEO John Castellani said in a statement that the move will "demonstrate the long-held commitment of PhRMA member companies to responsible sharing of clinical trial data".
The new round of 'openness' will begin on January 1st, 2014. However, does this go far enough. Commenting on the announcement, Ben Goldacre, who has co-founded the AllTrials campaign group demanding increased transparency in clinical trials, said that the new measures: "Fall way short of the concrete commitments the European Medicines Agency has already made about sharing trial information, and also fall short of recent commitments from GSK [GlaxoSmithKline] and Roche."
Goldacre is also concerned that only the results from trials conducted from 2014 onwards will be shared. The doctor thinks that trial information for the past two decades should also be openly shared.