Campaigners urge boycott of ‘confidential’ drug trials

Ben Goldacre The ‘open data’ campaign led by the Cochrane Collaboration and the BMJ has called for a boycott of clinical trials whose publication is not guaranteed.

The campaigners have launched a public petition to discourage researchers, academic institutions, funding bodies and patients from supporting drug trials whose results may be ‘confidential’.

Other supporters of the petition include the charity Sense About Science; the James Lind Alliance, an alliance of patients and clinicians focused on medical research; the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine in Australia; and journalist Ben Goldacre (pictured), author of Bad Pharma.

The ‘Tamiflugate’ controversy over the ongoing non-publication of clinical trial results relating to Roche’s influenza drug has fuelled the campaign. The BMJ has campaigned for the medical profession to put pressure on Roche to reveal the missing data since November 2012.

Ben Goldacre’s book claimed that pharmaceutical companies systematically distort the landscape of clinical evidence by withholding the results of less favourable drug trials.

MPs including Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston have called for a public enquiry into the £500m spent by the Government in stockpiling Tamiflu during the ‘swine flu’ crisis.

Tracey Brown, Director of Sense About Science, commented: “There have been years of foot dragging and non-compliance with requirements. We expect regulatory bodies to evaluate the best available evidence, not half of it.”

Launching the petition, the BMJ argued that patients should not participate in ‘confidential’ trials: “Participants in clinical trials assume that they are contributing to the advancement of medical knowledge; non-publication of study results negates this reasonable assumption and betrays those who have volunteered.”