In the face of bad publicity and impending restrictions, trade groups representing pharmaceutical companies have proposed a voluntary plan for using a clinical trials registry as well as results databases by midyear.
The “Joint Position on the Disclosure of Clinical Trial Information via Clinical Trials Registries and Databases,” issued by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), sister organizations in Europe and Japan, and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) covers all nonexploratory (non-phase I) clinical drug trials and has two major requirements:
1Clinical trials registry listing. All trials initiated on or after July 1, 2005, must be included in a clinical trials registry. Trials that are now underway must be included by Sept. 13, 2005.
Each trial “should be given a unique identifier to ensure transparency of clinical trial results” that would permit tracking the trial results through multiple databases. The U.S. government's trial registry site (www.clinicaltrials.gov
2Timely posting of results. Results for all trials completed after Jan. 6, 2005, must be posted in a timely manner, generally within 1 year after the drug is first approved and commercially available in any country, or, for trials completed after approval, within 1 year of trial completion. An exception is made if posting would compromise publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
The database should include results of all non-phase I trials “conducted on a drug that is approved for marketing and is commercially available in at least one country,” according to the proposal. Furthermore, the data must be disclosed “on a free, publicly accessible, clinical trials database, regardless of outcome.”
The deadlines for registration outlined in the proposal match the mandatory deadlines issued by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors last September. The ICMJE will require clinical trials registration prior to publication of drug trial results in member journals (including the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine).
This mandatory requirement was one of the reasons the pharmaceutical groups included a registry in their proposal, Maciej Gajewski, manager of health care systems issues at IFPMA, told this newspaper.
But more significantly, the trade organizations hope that a voluntary international registry and results database will preempt the efforts of individual governments to enact their own clinical trials legislation that would make it difficult for member companies to operate efficiently on a global scale, Mr. Gajewski said.
For example, legislation was introduced in both houses of the U.S. Congress last October to mandate both trial registration and data disclosure. Although the bills did not pass, proponents say that they intend to submit similar bills this year, even in the face of the new pharmaceutical industry proposal.
A significant difference in the congressional approach is the introduction of penalties for noncompliance of up to $10,000 per day. In addition, their proposed registry (which would build upon www.clinicaltrials.gov
The focus in the position paper and the ICMJE statement (and mirrored in the federal legislation) on using www.clinicaltrials.gov
In a September 2004 editorial, Kamran Abbasi, acting editor of the BMJ, called www.clinicaltrials.gov
Requiring worldwide adherence to FDA regulations also concerns the IFPMA, Mr. Gajewski said, because “more and more trials are being conducted in developing countries.”
He declined to comment, however, on the next steps in moving forward with the clinical trials registration and the databases, given that some of these are events involve nonpublic, industry-related issues.
Last October, PhRMA launched its own results database for use by health care professionals and the general public (www.clinicalstudyresults.org
Other study reporting sites have been developed by specific pharmaceutical companies. These include the GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Trial Register, which encompasses clinical trials completed since the formation of GSK on December 27, 2000—a move in part due to settlement of the GSK lawsuit involving the antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine). (See box.)
In a statement, GSK “welcomed” the announcement of the joint position paper and declared that the company will continue to post on its own site as well as “post information about GSK-sponsored patient trials initiated on or after Nov. 1, 2004, on clinicaltrials.gov
From Courts to Congress, Several Pharmaceutical Companies Took Heat in 2004
Not everything went wrong for big pharma last year, but it might have seemed that way to some companies. Attacks came on several fronts, from journal articles to journal editors to the courts, and even legislators in the U.S. Congress and British Parliament.
In May, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted the need for full disclosure by the industry of drug trial outcomes. An-Wen Chan, M.D., and colleagues at the Centre for Statistics and Medicine, Oxford, England, reviewed the original reports behind 122 published studies of 102 clinical trials. They found that overall, 50% of efficacy outcomes and 65% of harm outcomes per trial were incompletely reported. Furthermore, 86% (42 of 49) of trial investigators surveyed denied the existence of unreported outcomes despite clear evidence to the contrary (JAMA 2004;291:2457–65).